IRS chief Lois Lerner to plead the 5th in front of Congress


House Oversight And Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa questions members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during a hearing December 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. In October the four commissioners sent a letter White House Chief of Staff William Daley expressing 'grave concerns' that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko's deficiencies as a leader could compromise nuclear safety.


Chip Somodevilla

The woman leading the tax-exemption division when the IRS targeted conservative groups will plead the 5th before Congress on Wednesday.

Lois Lerner’s lawyer sent a letter to Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House oversight committee, saying she’s being forced into invoking the Fifth Amendment.

“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation, but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” William Taylor’s letter said, according to Reuters.

Taylor also asked that Lerner be excused from the hearing, saying she will only face undue “burden,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

He sent the letter on Monday, and several news organizations obtained copies on Tuesday.

IRS staff singled out non-profit groups using names like tea party or patriot for extra attention.

Often, the additional screenings would delay their applications for tax-exempt status.

Lerner ordered changes when she learned of the practice almost two years ago, the LA Times said.

She first disclosed the IRS tactic roughly two weeks ago, but congress is attempting to learn why she didn’t say anything when she met a congressional panel two days earlier.

Wednesday’s hearing will be the third in the week since the scandal broke.

A representative for Issa said Lerner should own up to her role.

“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,” Ali Ahmad said.