The official who was in charge of Internal Revenue Service division that admitted scrutinizing the tax-exempt status of conservative groups told a House committee on Wednesday that she was refusing to testify even though she had done nothing wrong.
In a statement to the House Oversight Committee, IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Louis Lerner noted that Republicans on the committee had accused her of providing false information in her response to questions about the processing of applications for tax exemptions.
“I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules and regulations,” Lerner explained. “And while I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I’ve been advised by my council to assert my constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing.”
“Because I’ve asserted me right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I’ve done something wrong, I have not,” she added. “One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals. And that is the protection that I’m invoking today.”
Several Republicans on the committee, however, argued that Lerner had effectively waived her rights by making a statement to the committee. Chairman Darrell Issa dismissed Lerner, but reserved the right to call back in the future.
Prior to Lerner’s remarks, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) had warned that the IRS could face a special prosecutor if it did not cooperate with the committee.
“There will be hell to pay if that’s the route,” he said.
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast May 22, 2013.