The director of the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organizations division, Lois Lerner, is invoking the Fifth Amendment and will not appear before Congress to answer questions about the agency’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups.
Lerner was scheduled to appear before the House Oversight committee tomorrow to discuss the improper conduct of IRS employees who singled out conservative groups, and why she failed to bring that behavior to the attention of Congress.
“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” said a letter from her defense attorney, William Taylor, to committee chairman Darrell Issa, according to the Los Angeles Times, which obtained a copy of the correspondence. Taylor asked that the committee excuse Lerner from testifying since she will not answer questions.
In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee last week, the outgoing commissioner of the IRS, Steven Miller, revealed that Lerner initially disclosed the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups by planting a question at a conference hosted by the American Bar Association.
Lerner learned that conservative groups were receiving improper scrutiny in June of 2011 and ordered that her employees in the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division put an end to the practice. She failed to inform Congress, however, despite several inquiries from lawmakers.
UPDATE: The National Journal reports that Chairman Issa has issued a subpoena to compel Lerner to appear before the committee.