IRS Official In Charge Of Nonprofits Declines To Testify

NPR icon by Scott Neuman
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Carolyn Kaster

Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official who handled the division that deals with nonprofit groups seeking tax-exempt status, will invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination rather than answer questions at a congressional hearing set for Wednesday.

Lerner is accused of placing conservative groups under special scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. She was subpoenaed to testify Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee.

Speaking Tuesday, Lerner's attorney, William W. Taylor III, said that his client "has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation, but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course."

A spokesman for committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the subpoena would not be withdrawn, raising the possibility that Lerner would have to appear and then decline to answer question after question.

In a letter on Tuesday to Issa, Lerner's attorney asked that she be excused from testifying.

"Requiring her to appear at the hearing merely to assert her Fifth Amendment privilege would have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her," Taylor wrote, according to Politico.

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