Former IRS official refuses to testify
Lawyer: We lost faith in the forum
Former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the the agency's targeting of tea party groups, where she invoked her constitutional right not to incriminate herself. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
The former Internal Revenue Service official at the heart of the controversy over the agency’s targeting of conservative groups once again refused to answer questions at a House hearing yesterday amid signs that a congressional investigation into the affair may be stalling.
Lois Lerner headed the IRS division that improperly singled out Tea Party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections. Yesterday she was recalled to testify before the House Oversight Committee for the second time in a year.
But just like the first time, she declined to answer questions about her involvement. Appearing with her lawyer, Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment rights at least nine times in response to questions by committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a Republican from California.
Later, Lerner’s lawyer told reporters she didn’t testify because “we completely lost confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the forum.”
“This matter has become polarized,” said the lawyer, William Taylor. “It is completely partisan. There was no possibility, in my view, that Ms. Lerner would be given a fair opportunity to speak, to answer questions or to tell the truth.”
Taylor said the ordeal, which began last May when Lerner first disclosed the targeting, has been unsettling for Lerner.
After yesterday’s hearing, Issa suggested his committee’s investigation may become stalled without Lerner’s testimony.
“At this point, roads lead to Ms. Lerner,” Issa said. Without her testimony, he said, “it may dead-end at Ms. Lerner.”