IRS Honcho Defiant in 9-Minute House Appearance

Lois Lerner says she hasn't done anything wrong, then pleads the 5th

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted May 22, 2013 1:36 PM CDT

(Newser) – The IRS official at the center of the storm over the agency's targeting of conservative groups told Congress today that she had done nothing wrong in the episode, and then invoked her constitutional right to refuse to answer lawmakers' questions, as expected. In one of the most electric moments since the IRS controversy erupted nearly two weeks ago, Lois Lerner defended herself during a 9-minute-long appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "I have done nothing wrong," said Lerner, sitting next to three other witnesses and reading from a written statement. "I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee."

Lerner then said she would invoke her Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating herself. After Oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa asked her to reconsider, Lerner said, "I will not answer any questions or testify about the subject matter of this committee's meeting." She was excused and escorted out nine minutes after she began speaking. Issa and other members of the committee were not pleased with Lerner's decision to not testify. Even before she spoke, Rep. Stephen Lynch warned the witnesses that their refusal to cooperate would result in the eventual appointment of a special prosecutor to examine the case. "There will be hell to pay if that's the route we choose to go down," he said.

Lois Lerner, head of the IRS unit that decides whether to grant tax-exempt status to groups, listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 22, 2013.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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