The head of the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt organizations office, faced with allegations of improper targeting of conservative groups, told a House committee Wednesday that she has done nothing wrong but declined to answer questions, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Lois G. Lerner told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in an opening statement that members of the panel have already accused her of providing false information to Congress.
“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.” But on the advice of counsel, she said, she would not answer questions or testify before the committee.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the committee chairman, asked her to reconsider, to no avail, then dismissed her and her attorney from the hearing room. At that point, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) objected, saying Lerner waived her right to invoke the Fifth Amendment by making an opening statement. “She ought to stay here and answer our questions,” he declared.
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