IRS official will refuse to answer questions at U.S. House hearing

WASHINGTON Tue May 21, 2013 6:26pm EDT

A woman walks out of the Internal Revenue Service building in New York in this May 13, 2013 photo. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A woman walks out of the Internal Revenue Service building in New York in this May 13, 2013 photo.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lois Lerner, an Internal Revenue Service official who revealed that the agency was giving extra scrutiny to conservative groups, will assert her constitutional right not to answer questions from a congressional committee on Wednesday, her lawyer said in a letter obtained by Reuters.

"She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course," Lerner's attorney, William Taylor, wrote to the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is holding hearings into the IRS scandal.

Lerner is the chief of the IRS tax-exempt unit, which has been accused of using partisan criteria to decide which groups applying for tax-exempt status should receive extra scrutiny. According to an inspector general's report, the office searched for groups with "Tea Party" or "patriots" in their names.

Taylor said he had advised Lerner to assert her Fifth Amendment right in part due to allegations made by the committee chairman, Darrell Issa, that she had provided false and misleading information to Congress.

The Fifth Amendment provides individuals with protection against self-incrimination.

According to a second document obtained by Reuters, Issa has issued a subpoena to demand that Lerner attend his panel's hearing on Wednesday, the third congressional hearing in less than a week since the scandal first erupted.

At least three congressional committees are investigating the matter.

Issa spokesman Ali Ahmad said in a statement on Tuesday: "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 apologized for the targeting at a tax conference on May 10, setting off a wave of criticism, congressional probes and a Justice Department investigation.

Issa, a Republican who is an aggressive critic of President Barack Obama, in a letter to Lerner last week said "it appears that you provided false or misleading information on four separate occasions last year in response to the Committee's oversight."

Taylor is a Washington-based lawyer with Zuckerman Spaeder LLP. The law firm's website cites Taylor's experience with "high-profile civil and criminal matters, often under intense media scrutiny."

He notably defended Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, against criminal charges related to a sexual assault accusation. The criminal charges were dismissed, and a related civil suit was settled.

(Reporting by Kim Dixon; Editing by Karey Van Hall and Eric Beech)

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Comments (29)
USAPragmatist wrote:
This is what happens when you have people like Boehner saying people need to go to jail over this, before the investigation has been completed. It actualyl hampers the ability to get to the bottom of it because people that did not commit a crime are going to shut up for fear of being involved in a witch-hunt.

May 21, 2013 4:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
USAPragmatist wrote:
Forgot to add, this is why criminal investigations are kept quiet until you have enough evidence to prosecute.

May 21, 2013 4:26pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RJWagner wrote:
She has the goods. Obama is protecting her job as head of IRS Obamacare division, and she is protecting his presidency by shutting up. I would bet big money these targeting directives came from the WH if not Obama himself. If she squeals, everything comes crashing down.

May 21, 2013 4:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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