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. abmri60

    Guilty by remaining silent, probably nothing will happen to her or the IRS.
    When you plead the 5th, you lose your job, pension and have your assets seized.

    May 22, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  2. wut?

    Funny how republicans keep forgetting liberal groups were also targeted. This isn’t a conservative or liberal issue. The focus was on groups who named themselves and/or publicly state they oppose tax laws. They SHOULD be targeted.

    May 22, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  3. TONY

    @kawiman- string her up on the nearest tree.
    the most Ignorant comment. all you right wingers are accusing the administration when there is no evidence that the it is involved in this practice.

    May 22, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  4. kcc

    Hey just sayin, you think its ok for journalist to endanger Americans over seas to sell news papers?

    May 22, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  5. Jerry

    This is another example of how the DEMS and Liberals twist thing to their advantage. If this was a republican administration they would be in the press screaming for heads to roll. Same with Bengahzi, they will just brush it under the rug; it was only (4) AMERICAN LIVES LOST!!

    May 22, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  6. George Dixon

    That sounds like there is nothing to cover-up. That sounds like Obama is a Saint.

    May 22, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  7. Jerry

    We can't let this go... We need to make the responsible parties pay for this outragious act against our freedoms and privacy..If the White House knew of it, no matter whom it was then they need to go...

    May 22, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  8. dialogos68

    This kind of wide spread corruption always comes from the top down. Welcome to 1930s Socialist N@zi Germany. Sad! If you disagree with our emerging police state, watch out!

    May 22, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  9. sirock

    Why is this current Administration hiding the truth? If nothing wrong was done then the truth will set her free. This is the most corrupt Government America has ever had. I bet Nixon and Carter are glad as they will lose their standing and worst and most crooked presidents!

    May 22, 2013 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  10. wolfpackbob

    She did nothing "legally wrong", right? Just like her boss Miller said. No laws were broken. So why do you plead "The Fifth" if all you broke were IRS guidelines? Oh yeah, this is all just a witch hunt.

    May 22, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  11. may40

    WHat is wrong with you libs? Do you all have criminal minds as well? You should be outraged by this and that WH administration is a complete disaster and you could care less!!!

    May 22, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  12. John

    Poor TEaTards. They think government workers are lazy, but then make it a federal case when gov employees do their jobs. I think the IRS should get a raise.

    May 22, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  13. THE IRS

    Keep it up. I will investigate everybody in this forum if they don't do what I want

    May 22, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  14. JR

    Of course they were going after the Tea Baggers. They're offspring of the most rotten, pathetic cancer on planet earth, the Republican Party. You know the likes of Rove, Cheney, Bush, Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Fox News, etc., etc..

    May 22, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  15. chris

    KASUMU- Your blind and will figure that out when the IRS targets you or things you believe in. The nerve of some liberals to think this only affects the GOP. Blind. This affects everyone.

    May 22, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  16. Kasper

    I just love how CNN (Clinton News Network) put this article at the bottom of the page, and had OJ Trail as a headlight. I can clearly see where their priorities are! So much for fair reporting, anything that could make Democrats look bad is quickly swept under the rug or hidden deep in their site

    May 22, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  17. tonyh110

    Seems the country's polarization grows stronger – the media thinks anybody conservative is 'fair game' for insults and discrimination by this administration. Oh but dont a conservative dare to speak out. So it goes and probably the only thing that will resolve it is a repeat of the 1861-65 episode – but beware the, mainly conservative, South is a totally different beast these days – safe to say its holding most of the deck

    May 22, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  18. Suur Kurat

    Lois Lerner epitomizes the Obama administration at its best. Fanatical dedication to her basketball dribbling "vozhd" and not to the people of her nation who she is supposed to serve.

    May 22, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  19. Core republican Values

    Its obvious these extreme right wing political organizations were trying to get tax exempt status illegally, and are now trying to hide that fact.

    May 22, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  20. Guest

    It is laughable and sad to watch the media protect obama corruption. Can you imagine what outrage there would be about this, Benghazi, and attempt to shut down the few reporters who try to report the truth, if a republican had been president. The democrats are on a sinking ship. Clean up and start over.

    May 22, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  21. Anonymous

    I see a few comments saying the IRS actions were somehow justified because of these were political groups and deserved extra scrutiny. Really? First, they admit that they were NOT targeting left-leaning groups for extra scrutiny. Does that not bother you? A federal agency with incredible power is targeting groups with conservative viewpoints specifically. I'll bet you wouldn't feel the same way if the shoe was on the other foot, or is Nixon your hero too? Second, when you look at some of the actual scrutiny applied, "Send us your reading lists", for instance, this goes beyond due diligence. Lets all protect the Constitution, shall we, as it allows all of us to freely discuss our different points of view.

    May 22, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  22. CommonSense

    Wow, I don't know what's scarier; the potential that our government is targeting people for their beliefs, or the idiots on this board that don't know what the 5th Amendment is for.

    Quick lesson...

    The 5th amendment is there to ensure you cannot be compelled to testify against YOURSELF. It IS NOT an admission of guilt, and only shallow minds would infer that. You can invoke this right whether or not you committed a crime.

    Some good places to use your 5th amendment right:
    1) When you receive a subpoena to testify in a crime you're accused of committing.
    2) When testifying under oath and not being allowed to fully answer the question (i.e. not being allowed to tell "the whole truth"
    3) When you can't accurately recall the events being questioned (you don't want to commit purgury by guessing).

    May 22, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  23. Harry 101


    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.

    Really that's your comment? Quit using the consititution yes lets go with that. Because if you no longer have a constitution then we can move on with the one party one voice system and let the government keep all opposed silent. If the support of the admin. could just stop the use of that inconvenient Doc. Lets use the ageny to silence all opposed you that to be the new american way?

    May 22, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  24. Harry 101

    Core republican Values

    Its obvious these extreme right wing political organizations were trying to get tax exempt status illegally, and are now trying to hide that fact.
    OIf course they are, they should be silent and left, there betters handle the problems. Funny the MSM has been looking for anything to pen on these groups for 5 years so far no smoking gun. But ok I bellieve you above all others.

    May 22, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  25. stairtsight

    Nothing says self incrimination like pleading the 5th. So much for taking responsibility for your actions. I have to give CNN credit for covering the story a little. I really wonder what the difference would be had this been Bubba Bush's administration doing tax targeting and Media digging? I and a lot of people weren't happy with the Patriot act but at least there is some connection with national security. Attacking the media and your opposition is strictly for political gain and definitely not legal. Pretty pathetic.

    May 22, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12