IRS official to plead the Fifth at congressional hearing
May 21st, 2013
04:54 PM ET
2 years ago

IRS official to plead the Fifth at congressional hearing

(CNN) – The official in charge of an embattled Internal Revenue Service division will invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a Wednesday appearance before a House oversight panel, a spokesman for the committee said.

Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS division handling requests for tax-exempt status, made her intentions known in a letter to the committee's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa. Lerner was the first IRS official to publically admit that the tax agency was using extra scrutiny on conservative groups applying to become tax exempt.

"The Committee has been contacted by Ms. Lerner's lawyer who stated that his client intended to invoke her 5th amendment right and refuse to answer questions," the committee's spokesman Ali Ahmad wrote in a statement. "Ms. Lerner remains under subpoena from Chairman Issa to appear at tomorrow's hearing - the Committee has a Constitutional obligation to conduct oversight. Chairman Issa remains hopeful that she will ultimately decide to testify tomorrow about her knowledge of outrageous IRS targeting of Americans for their political beliefs."

Lerner revealed during a question-and-answer session at a meeting of the American Bar Association a week and a half ago that the IRS was targeting conservative groups when assessing applications for tax exempt status. Later, officials at the agency said the question that prompted Lerner's response was planted as a way for the information to become public.

Her disclosure came days before the release of an independent inspector general's report, which indicated Lerner learned about the conservative targeting in June 2011. While she took steps to stop the practice, lawmakers want to know why she didn't notify members of Congress.

“While we respect Ms. Lerner’s use of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, we are disturbed she saw fit to trample over our First Amendment rights by harassing us and many other groups for our views,” Jenny Beth Martin, the co-Founder and national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, wrote in a statement Tuesday.


Filed under: Darrell Issa • IRS
soundoff (282 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    she is guilty as shite

    May 22, 2013 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  2. Hang Her

    Pretty obvious she has something to hide. Issa needs to convene a grand jury and prosecute her and her superiors.

    May 22, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  3. jim

    But I thought it was only low level employees that were involved. If that is true then why does Lois have anything to fear?

    May 22, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  4. brian

    is it me or is this distinction not being made: non-profit status is specifically NOT for political groups pushing their agendas, or "speaking their minds." they are not supposed to be politically partisan or even active, and can't participate directly or indirectly in elections, or have politicians speak at rallys, etc. "Tea Party" very specifically refers to a political group. it's not strange that they would get scrutiny if they are including the name of a political movement in the name of their organization. i'm not saying there wasn't bias, but no one is mentioning the simple fact that there are clear limitations to non-profit status, and "Tea Party" is a huge red flag. liberal red flags should have been looked at equally of course.

    May 22, 2013 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  5. darknesscrown

    No doubt, if he pleaded the "2nd" he'd be lauded as an American hero.

    May 22, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  6. joe

    even if obama gets impeached, biden would just take his place until 2016. hey right wing extremist turkeys, spend less time jerking off to the constitution, and more time actually reading it.

    May 22, 2013 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  7. darknesscrown

    Just so we're clear. 1st Amendment: depends...it's open to interpretation. 2nd Amendment: NON-FREAKING-NEGOTIABLE, DO NOT PASS GO, UNCHANGEABLE AND SET IN STONE. 3rd Amendment: What is the 3rd Amendment??? 4th Amendment: M'eh, don't need it...you know, it's important to hunt for "terrorists." 5th Amendment: People shouldn't get to use it IF they WORK for the government, since, apparently, ONLY government employees are accountable to society. 6th Amendment: What??? 7th Amendment: Uhhhh? 8th Amendment: How many of these are there?!? 9th Amendment: You're making my head spin! 10th Amendment:

    Based on listening to the flag-wavers out there, there are REALLY only 2 amendments.

    May 22, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  8. Reckless

    In no way am I justifying what the IRS did. However if Issa would conduct himself more professionally, maybe he would get more cooperation.

    May 22, 2013 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  9. GGB

    The Constitution is to protect citizens from the government, not the other way around. The irony of hiding behind the Constitution after denying that right to others is apparently lost on some.

    May 22, 2013 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  10. Johnqcit

    If a government official takes the fifth while on the job, they should be suspend while the investigation is on-going.

    May 22, 2013 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  11. 4sanity

    Lois Lerner and the other IRS agents who challenged these shill 501(c) applicant organizations to provide "documentation" should be given national medals of honor for their service to this country.

    The IRS has the mandate to investigate and adjudicate applications who want to claim tax exempt status. The IRS offiice responsible for reviewing 501(c) applications might suddenly get suspicious when during a national political campaign they suddenly receive 2400 new applications for that year from parties that have an avowed tax anarchist political agenda. Of course they should be "red flagged" and asked to prove their activities are for "social welfare" (yeah right !) instead of a tax evasion scam to funnel unlimited contributions to their campaigns.

    And the funny thing is that any legitimate political group (Tea Party etc included) already had multiple ways to claim tax exempt status through other 501 or 627 categories. What this "scandal" is really about is a) allowing donors to hide anonymously for the purpose of skirting campaign finance laws, and b) some of the groups (Karl Rove w/ Crossroads America) to engagd in fraud by claiming they already had been approved for 501(c) status when that wasn't the case. Plenty of tax experts at the time were dubious that these organizations would pass the smell test and if the IRS ruled against them they and their donors would be liable for taxes and penalties of 35-40 %. Crossroads itself hauled in excess of $100 million, so that would be one hefty bitter $ pill to swallow after a losing election when that money could otherwise be diverted to line your own pockets.

    This "scandal" (?) is nothing more than to give the IRS a public bloody nose so that they not dare turn off the gravy train. No free speech was abridged (the only issue was whether sham groups doing business paying for obviously political ads, commericals and salaries of "social welfare advocates" (i.e. lobbyists) have to their pay taxes). And for the record the number of conservative groups denied in 2012 was exactly "zero" while the number of liberal groups denied was 1 (Emerge America). Oh the scandal !

    Perhaps Americans should be more outraged over the thousands of citizens delayed, harassed and disenfranchised in exercising their political free speech for voting. Republicans certainly have no qualms about piling on ever more onerous requirements to provide extra documentation ("Show me your papers !") and if they can't accept a State certified birth certificate for the President, then I think it only fair for the IRS to question the legitimacy of their tax filings.

    May 22, 2013 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  12. Kenny

    She can be compelled to testify. I learned this the other day when I was researching the legality of state level income tax as it relates to the fifth amendment's eminent domain clause. Apparently they can grant her two types of immunity. One is blanket style were she can not be prosecuted. The other is were nothing she says or any evidence gathered as a result of her testimony can be used against her. But I would prefer the Video of an IRS agent invoking the 5th. Should serve to further outrage people and increase the odds of killing the IRS once and for all.

    May 22, 2013 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  13. a slozomby

    @Rick McDaniel she was in charge of the department. hardly the little guy

    May 22, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  14. deneete

    Ali Ahmad is her spokesman...really after what she put fellow American Patriots through just to protect and stand up for our rights...and she has Ali Ahmad as her spokesman..really, really??? What is this country coming to??? God Bless America PLEASE!!!!

    May 22, 2013 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  15. Darrell

    Ok, you birdbrains: taking the 5th does not mean you are guilty. Didn't they teach this at Glen Beck University? So, you idiots who believe taking the 5th implies guilt, go back to Glen Beck University School of Idiot Law and get your money back.

    May 22, 2013 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  16. Jakob Jackson

    It's horrible that the IRS is not standing up and just stating that they did the right thing in scrutinizing these groups. The focus of these groups is political, as they freely admit when they call themselves part of the "tea party" and "conservative."

    May 22, 2013 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  17. Anthony... proud tax payer

    iberal Sense (Or lack thereof)
    Demcorats will continue their ignorant ways as usual.
    FACT: If this was a republican administration they'd be screaming murder.
    How many scandals now? 5? 6? Loosing track.

    You conveniently left out ALL the things GW Bush did while in office.
    If Issa had ANYTHING on President Obama, don't you think we'd have heard about it by now? From ANY of these R Clowns? Nope.

    But hey.. Im old enough to remember the
    Iran/Contra scandal...
    as well as Bush ignoring 9-11 intel,
    and WMD Lies,
    Halliburton no bid contracts,
    Wall Street Deregulations...
    Katrina,
    The Patriot Act,
    Wealthy Tax Breaks (during war time)

    I can keep going...

    (whoops.. did I just destroy your argument? I apologize)

    May 22, 2013 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  18. Cortanis

    *golf clap* Bravo... /sarcasm

    May 22, 2013 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  19. John Maroney

    But the Obama administration is transparent. I'm sure the focus on Conservative groups had nothing to do with the Democratic administration, and this guy pleading the Fifth shouldn't raise any questions whatsoever.

    May 22, 2013 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  20. Evelyn Connaway

    No one gave any orders – employees have a job and she was doing hers – so she became a little wary of all these applications of the same type coming in in such a short period of time – and questioned about them. No wrong was really done – none were stopped from being processed. I guess just the fact that she questioned – caused a big nasty witch hunt by old stupid Issa. Got to to whup those democrats one way or the other!!!!!!

    May 22, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  21. Kg

    If the dolts at the top won't speak then start at the bottom.
    IRS agents were assigned to work with these groups applying for exempt status.
    They will spill the beans.

    May 22, 2013 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  22. J.V.Hodgson

    This guy D Issa starts from a presumption of guilt re something even though he cant figure out of what it is you are guilty!!
    This lady is giving the most serious and sensible advice to anyone put in front of his committee ( him especially)... plead the fifth!!
    This amendment is designed to protect the innoncent from being prosecuted without evidence... the only " evidence so far is the IG report."
    And will all puh lease remember the law and that congress REQUIRES the IRS to vet all such organisations before agreeing tax exempt status. They were in that sense doing thier job
    Was "HOW AND WHAT THEY DID" morally wrong, outrageous, bad judgement, Yes all of those, BUT HEY, WERE THEY LEGALLY REQUIRED TO DO IT!! ALSO YES.
    The problem Mr Issa is already convinced that somewhere somehow Obama himself or he thru say Treasury or the IRS head instructed the " targetting"
    Fixing the problem is nowhere on Issa's agenda here or on Benghazi or the AP matter Only a political witch hunt that will fail in all three cases.
    Budget, deficit, taxes, debt, jobs, economy, err what happened to them, immigration OK the Senate has agreed something, Time to do a house bill opposing anything almost in the Senate Bill.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    May 22, 2013 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  23. Meg

    You people give the President far too much credit for superpowers. I've worked under two Administrations (Bush 2 and Obama) and no one above the Deputy Assistant Secretary / Commissioner has no idea what staff is doing, ever. Heck, the DAS (or equal variation) doesn't know what I've done all year (or my sub-department). That fact doesn't change regardless of who is in office. Truth is, some GS-13 manager probably gave his/her staff a pep talk and they got a bit... ahem...too ambitious. Also, you think employees are going to bow to an Administration's demands if their own butt is on the line? You think she wants to plead the 5th to protect someone above her? I doubt it! She's probably afraid that the Administration would suggest that the DOJ prosecute based on a violation of federal statute. You don't have to go too far out of line to break the law as a federal employee. I'm not a fan of either party and in my view, both sides are equally nauseating, so don't go all crazy calling me a Libtard for being skeptical on this one.

    May 22, 2013 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
  24. austinkeith

    She'd be an idiot not to take the 5th as these investigations will use anything she might say against her in court. Issa needs to offer her immunity or whistle blower status before this criminal will spill the beans on all her fellow crooks.

    May 22, 2013 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
  25. Carol

    Sounds like she was lying in the first place and they were never targeting the Tea Party, etc. groups.! Now she has to take the Fifth to not say anything since she already perjured herself.

    May 22, 2013 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
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