Top IRS Official to Invoke Fifth, Issa Subpoenas

Shane Goldmacher
National Journal

Lois Lerner, the IRS official who headed the tax-exempt division when the targeting of tea-party groups took place, plans to invoke her Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions before Congress on Wednesday.

But Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House oversight committee where Lerner was to appear, has issued a subpoena to Lerner anyway.

The subpoena was delivered after the committee received the letter from Lerner's attorney, a committee aide said.

Her attorney, William Taylor, said in a letter obtained by National Journal, that Lerner had "not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation" but that she would decline to testify at a House hearing on Wednesday.

Taylor further asked for his client to be allowed not to show up at all. "Because Ms. Lerner is invoking her constitutional privilege, we respectfully request that you excuse her from appearing at the hearing," Taylor wrote to Issa.

Taylor had written that "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."

Lerner was the IRS official who first disclosed the targeting of tea party and conservative groups earlier this month in what was later learned to be a planted question during a conference. Lawmakers were furious as she had appeared before a congressional panel only two days earlier and had failed to mention the targeting, even as she was questioned about the topic.

Lerner has drawn fire from both sides of the aisle. Rep. Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, has called for her to resign. On Tuesday, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., pilloried her at a hearing as “the lady who doesn't do math but knows how to plant a question.”

In a letter last week, Issa wrote to Lerner, saying, “It appears that you provided false or misleading information on four separate occasions last year.” More ominously, he warned that misleading Congress “is a serious matter, with potential criminal liability.”

In turn, Lerner has decided to invoke the Fifth to avoid testifying before Congress again.