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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Top IRS Official Pleads The Fifth

Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS division that singled out conservative groups, invoked the Fifth Amendment Wednesday as she refused to testify at the start of a House oversight hearing on her agency's controversial program. 
Lerner, before invoking that right, said in a brief opening statement that she had done nothing wrong, even though people might assume that by her decision not to answer questions from the committee. 
"I have not done anything wrong," she said. "I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee." 
Lerner has emerged as a key figure in the scandal. She was the first to acknowledge the practice two weeks ago, and was aware of the program for years as head of the division. Though two officials have so far left the IRS in the wake of the controversy, she has not. 
But Lerner's attorney William Taylor III made clear in advance of the hearing she would not answer questions. He also asked committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in a letter if she could skip Wednesday's hearing since she would be pleading the Fifth. 
Taylor argued that forcing Lerner to appear "would have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her." 
Late Tuesday, the House oversight committee released a statement saying Lerner was still under subpoena and would be required to appear. 
Other former or outgoing IRS officials have already testified, and will continue to give their testimony on Wednesday. 
The House committee is scheduled to hear from Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin, as the search for someone who will claim responsibility continues. 
Since the Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into the IRS scandal and the House committee indicated it would question Lerner about why she provided incomplete information to the committee at least four times last year, Taylor wrote that his client would be invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. 
On Tuesday, outgoing IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, was back in the hot seat as he testified for the second time in two weeks on Capitol Hill.
Miller expressed regret for the agency's decision to use a planted question to go public with the IRS's practice of singling out conservative groups. 
It was one in a series of missteps that have not only publicly marred the reputation of the IRS but also called into question what the White House knew about the scandal and when they knew it. 
"We're not looking for people to be evasive but we want people forthright and straightforward with us," Rep. Joseph Crowley, a Democrat from New York, told Fox News. 
While Crowley did not go so far as to say Lerner should be let go, he did say, "the bottom line is that you cannot lie to Congress, be evasive or mislead. You must answer the question and not mislead Congress." 
Separately, two Tea Party-related groups filed lawsuits against the IRS this week.

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