High-ranking IRS official to “take the fifth” and refuse to testify before Congress on scandal

IRS Building file photo

According to news reports, an attorney for IRS official Lois Lerner has indicated that Lerner will invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify before Congress.   Lerner is the director of the IRS Exempt Organization Division, which deals with nonprofits, including those seeking 501(c)(4) status.

Lerner was to be called before a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, May 22, aimed at continuing Congressional inquiries investigating unfair, potentially unlawful treatment by the IRS of conservative nonprofits, such as targeting nonprofits using terminology like “Tea Party” or “patriots” or expressing a goal to make the country better.

As of yet, it does not appear that there has been discussion of granting Lerner immunity to force her to testify.

By way of comparison, note that, if Lerner invokes the Fifth Amendment in a civil proceeding, such as a federal civil suit, traditionally an adverse inference could be drawn against her in that kind of venue.  An adverse inference would mean drawing the implication that Lerner was guilty of wrongdoing relating to the subject matter which she was refusing to address.

Links & Further Reading

> Top IRS official will invoke 5th Amendment – LA Times 5.21.13

> Lerner to Invoke the Fifth, Former IRS Commissioner Describes ‘Dismay’ – Roll Call 5.21.13

> A bushel of Pinocchios for IRS’s Lois Lerner – House Ways and Means Committee/Washington Post 5.20.13

Lerner to Invoke the Fifth, Former IRS Commissioner Describes ‘Dismay’


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