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. truth is good

    This looks bad. Every American has felt the government is always over reaching and abusing their power. This kind of stuff shows its true.

    May 22, 2013 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  2. wgf

    “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,”

    The first amendment does not guarantee tax exempt status. None of these groups have had their free speech rights infinged upon. Whatever rights were infringed upon came not from the First Amendment, or even from laws passed by Congress, but from a 50 year-old IRS interpestation of what the word "exclusively" means.

    Any organization that had "Tea Party" as part of its name was justifiably targeted. Just as I would expect any group that had "Democratic Party" or "Republican Party" as part of its name to be targeted. The Tea Party is most definitely a poliicat movement, and not a social welfare organization.

    May 22, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  3. joeallard

    First and foremost, I love some of the comedic responses here. Secondly, in my opinion, when anyone invokes the fifth they are indeed guilty of whatever it is they are accused of. Furthermore, again in my opinion, they can no longer be trusted. They are cowards and well as scum and should dealt with accordingly, like a thrashing with a barbed wire whip and then sent down a rail.

    May 22, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  4. liberal disease

    She is just doing what Obama is telling her to do..

    May 22, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  5. Just a Though

    Just one question. Why is it that Obama could and continue to get away with blaming Bush for EVERYTHING that went wrong during his time but NOTHING is his fault now? You can't have it both ways! Lord knows I didn't like a lot of the things Bush did but good lord how is it that this guy gets away with this? I don't get it. Wake up people!

    May 22, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  6. mgkdrgn

    The REAL problem is, that after this all blows over, and NOBODY goes to jail, the IRS won't "think" it can do anything it wants, to anyone, anytime .... it will KNOW it can do anything it wants, to anyone, at any time. Plus, the administration (this and future) will know it has a blunt instrument of power and intimidation that is above and beyond the law.

    May 22, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  7. name

    I plead the fif!
    I plead the fif!


    One, two, three, four, FIF!

    Anything you say, FIF!

    Go ahead ask me a question.....FIF!

    May 22, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  8. Dude Love

    Nothing like the government being able to break laws whenever it sees fit.

    May 22, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  9. DocHollywood

    we are disturbed she saw fit to trample over our First Amendment rights by harassing us and many other groups for our views,” .......Sorry, but that may be illegal or wrong, but it's not a violation of your first amendment rights. No one denied you speech. You don't need to be a tax exempt institution to express free speech. Quit using the constitution as a crutch for every friggin' thing.

    May 22, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  10. IvotedforObama

    and yet there are 4500 American families who will never see their loved ones again because of a president that actually lied and the GOP doesn't care.

    May 22, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  11. northerstar

    I am certain the people who wrote the 5th Admendment did not invision that people working FOR the government would claim 5th amendment rights when found working AGAINST the interests of the people. She has the right to claim her 5th admendment but it does not improve people's trust in the IRS.

    May 22, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  12. Aida

    This is serious! Someone needs to go to jail over this. Government officials, regardless of their appointment, must understand they work for those of us who pay taxes. We need to set an example.

    May 22, 2013 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  13. smitvict

    Obama administration – DENY – DENY – DENY – when the truth comes out, say "That's old news"

    May 22, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  14. Bhawk1

    Issa tries to make a pimple on a nats rear a major deal–he will have a field day with this-

    May 22, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  15. Lou

    I don't want these lying IRS agents involved in my health care!

    May 22, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  16. Bill

    Well, she could just tell the truth, but I guess that wouldn't be smart, would it?

    May 22, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  17. steve

    what have you got to hide lady?
    sounds to me like you have been getting away with one lie after another your entire life. I pity your family. They must really be proud of such a spineless, no integrity loser!

    May 22, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  18. lgccac

    Anytime anyone pleads the Fifth, it means they're hiding something.

    May 22, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  19. Mo

    Coudls it be Mr. Obama is afraid of what she will say and that is why she still has a job a the IRS? Why is he allowing her to remain if he isn't.

    May 22, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  20. T

    .......Don't you find it AMAZING, that certain smaller portions of the political parties feel that Obama is a mumbling, bumbling, ignorant, mo ron............and in the same sentence believe that....Obama is an overreaching controller who has the capacity to reach and instruct every single Federal employee personally at every level, on every topic. Amazing what a SICK MIND can do.........

    May 22, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  21. Unknown11

    Wow. The IRS official who it appears was using the IRS to bully political opposition to the administration, and who was promoted to be in charge of thousands of people in Obama Care, is taking the 5th, and CNN makes that the 15th or 20th story on the page. I am kinda surprised it appeared at all.

    May 22, 2013 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  22. bduce

    While the IRS has always been a Gestapo in pursuing anyone who didn't have connections if they thought they could get cash for any oversight in reporting, this is really turning the IRS into a criminal enterprise and they better not still be paying this bimbo a salary. If they are, they should stop while she pleads the 5th. She is obviously hiding the truth and forgets who she is working for. Most of the appointees in this administration have had checkered pasts that miraculously disappeared once they were on the federal payroll under Obama. That is true from the the top down and the fact his staff owes over $30,000 collectively in back taxes only fortifies the issue the American people have with this agency and this administration. Rather sickening what our government has become.

    May 22, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  23. Unknown11

    It has been obvious that Holder is nothing but a political puppet so Justice and FBI are not going to do anything here. There will be no grand jury as long as Holder and Obama are in charge. It is going to have to be congress and the media to bring this all out. And now, it seems that the administration is in the business of investigating and bullying the media.

    Keep on it people. This whole situation smells rottten.

    May 22, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  24. Noah

    who's she covering for?

    May 22, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  25. Karl

    That's it, lawyer up Sweetheart! Hey Progressives – keep telling yourself that the government is altruistic and benevolent – that we need a nanny state that will take care of us – this is what you get in the end except in your world, this scandal would never have seen the light of day.

    May 22, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
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