The IRS official who first confessed the targeting of Tea Party and other groups in a planted question at a bar association event told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this morning that she’s refusing to answer questions because she’s innocent.
But that may not be the end of the story as Republican committee members seized on her potentially fumbled assertion of the right against self-incrimination.
“I have not done anything wrong, I have not broken any laws,” Lois Lerner, who oversees the IRS’ tax-exempt division, said at this morning’s hearing. “…I have not provided false information to this or any committee.”
“After very careful consideration I have decided to take the advice of counsel,” she said, and refused to answer questions.
Lerner said “some people will assume I have done something wrong; I have not.” She added that invoking the amendment also protects innocent people.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) noted she’s giving testimony twice before the committee previously and asked her to reconsider. He asked her to immediately consult with counsel about whether she actually asserted her Fifth Amendment right or if she waived it by giving an opening statement.
“I will not answer any questions or testify about the subject matter of this hearing,” Lerner said after shortly whispering with men sitting behind her.
“She just testified,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a former prosector, said angrily. “You don’t get to tell your side of the story and then not be subject to cross-examination.”
Many in the gallery applauded Gowdy.
“She does have a right, I think, and we have to adhere to that,” ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said.
Before leaving, Lerner declined to answer a few more questions from Issa. The chairman advised the IRS official that she’s subject to recall after the GOP majority seeks specific counsel on whether her Fifth Amendment right was properly waived.