IRS official to plead the fifth at congressional hearing

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

By Dana Bash

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent

(CNN) — The official in charge of an embattled Internal Revenue Service division will invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a Wednesday appearance before a House oversight panel, a spokesman for the committee said.

Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS division handling requests for tax-exempt status, made her intentions known in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa. Lerner was the first IRS official to publically admit that the tax agency was using extra scrutiny on conservative groups applying to become tax exempt.

“The Committee has been contacted by Ms. Lerner’s lawyer who stated that his client intended to invoke her 5th amendment right and refuse to answer questions,” the committee’s spokesman Ali Ahmad wrote in a statement. “Ms. Lerner remains under subpoena from Chairman Issa to appear at tomorrow’s hearing — the Committee has a Constitutional obligation to conduct oversight. Chairman Issa remains hopeful that she will ultimately decide to testify tomorrow about her knowledge of outrageous IRS targeting of Americans for their political beliefs.”

Lerner revealed during a question-and-answer session at a meeting of the American Bar Association a week and a half ago that the IRS was targeting conservative groups when assessing applications for tax exempt status. Later, officials at the agency said the question that prompted Lerner’s response was planted as a way for the information to become public.

Her disclosure came days before the release of an independent inspector general’s report, which indicated Lerner learned about the conservative targeting in June 2011. While she took steps to stop the practice, lawmakers want to know why she didn’t notify members of Congress.