IRS official to plead the Fifth at congressional hearing
May 21st, 2013
04:54 PM ET
5 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. Carol

    P.S. She can only plead the Fifth if she actually committed a crime. She can't plead it just because she doesn't want to testify.

    May 22, 2013 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  2. Patrick

    I don't know which is more frightening or a greater threat to our country, the seemingly endless political corruption of this administration or the sea of commenters online that defend and excuse it's criminal behaviour.

    May 22, 2013 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  3. ep tor

    We know the Tea Party and groups misrepresenting themselves by using the word Patriot in their names, espouse fundamentally un-American ideas and promote religious extremism and the NRA's gun culture that kills our children. These groups are a danger to normal peace loving Americans. All activities of these dangerous groups should be closely monitored by the police and other agencies such as the IRS.

    May 22, 2013 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  4. Bob G

    When are people gonna wake up? Yeah well Cheney did this, yeah well Bush did that! WTH? Stop putting party over country! Our country will never be whole and complete while we are obsessed with "sides". QED! Our political system is bankrupt. Both "sides" have come to the logical conclusion of entrenchment and gridlock and the groupies that follow them no matter what!

    May 22, 2013 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  5. David Marriott

    ...and these jack boots are suppose to run our health care fairly! We don't want Obama care and I'll even bet that nobody wants the IRS either!

    May 22, 2013 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
  6. Bill

    Liberal Sense – I bet you thinks Fox News is actually a legitimate news source and is "fair and balanced".

    May 22, 2013 03:49 am at 3:49 am |
  7. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    This says pretty much all you need to know!

    May 22, 2013 04:34 am at 4:34 am |
  8. s

    So one patsy will plead the 5th and the rest of the criminals can go back to business as usual

    May 22, 2013 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  9. Dan

    Sorry liberals, but these tactics that obama is using (lying, pretending to be ignorant) and now having his gremlins plead the 5th, have never worked.

    Now we KNOW that all these scandals are not only real, but that obama is actively trying to hide his part in them.

    It won't work. He's been caught and it's just a matter of time.

    May 22, 2013 04:57 am at 4:57 am |
  10. Harleigh Kiffer

    How heroic falling on her sword for the President.

    May 22, 2013 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  11. Don

    Someone should roll a gallows down the street in Washington.

    May 22, 2013 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  12. Anonymous

    Can you imagine if this would have happened under Bush?

    May 22, 2013 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  13. ronvan

    Agree that this 5th amendment thing is a complete joke! You can plead "no contest" in court and still receive jail time ,so why not the same thing with the 5th? Whether guilty or not pleading the 5th makes anyone think that you are hiding something and guilty of some wrongdoing. WHY is it that our "elected children" always have to investigate themselves? There are MANY people in this country that have the smarts, common sense, and HONOR, to do this! And don't worry about secret or classified information as, again, many ret. military and others have held top secret clearance's!

    May 22, 2013 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  14. Rob

    Funny how she trampled on the rights of others but uses that same Bill of Rights to cover her own butt

    May 22, 2013 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  15. SeeThruIt2

    When she was told to plant the question to reveal the IG report to the public, she realized that she`s to be the scapegoat.

    May 22, 2013 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  16. sc

    Not a story. Who cares...

    May 22, 2013 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  17. Codestud3

    Wow this story has really been buried here on cnn. Thank god for tornadoes and American idol.

    May 22, 2013 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  18. Guest

    Truth is nonexistent in this administration.

    May 22, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  19. ipmutt

    More Obama and mainstream media whitewash and cover-up

    May 22, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  20. Bobby Kebic

    In Federal cases "The Fifth" should not be allowed because it might be covering the higher-ups! However, if "the fifth" is allowed and the defendant is found guilty the punishment should be doubled (except the death penalty, of course). This is not unprecedented; in cases of "Hate Crime" and crimes involving children punishments are usually much harsher.

    May 22, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  21. dave richman

    Another thread unravels from the cloak of the most dangerous man to ever occupy the our sacred office of President. Another bit of the tapestry that has been woven with arrogance and deceit, to cover the agenda of transformations true goal. God help us all to survive the evil that has been brought to our great union of states.

    May 22, 2013 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  22. whaco

    If the IRS has nothing to hide, then what's the problem???? Why the need to plead the fifth?? .....

    May 22, 2013 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  23. are122

    Later, officials at the agency said the question that prompted Lerner's response was planted as a way for the information to become public. <~~ Oh no!! And it exposed wrong doing??!! Sure can't have that, they should be ashamed.

    May 22, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  24. EVN

    IRS targeting aside (the targeting of any Muslim related group is so commonplace that the rare exeption is now the lack of IRS "special treatment"), why should political groups of any stripe be tax exempt in the first place? Far too many are lobbiest type groups pushing for an agenda that benefits their interests financially and otherwise, so why not treat the organization they use to push that agenda as any other tax paying organization?

    And while we are at it, let's end tax exempt status for religious organizations across the board – that would be real separation of church and state.

    May 22, 2013 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  25. babooph

    Plead the fifth,like a Mafioso ,or Reagan republican-I guess I would too....

    May 22, 2013 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
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