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IRS director refuses to testify

Lois Lerner pleads the Fifth during a congressional hearing concerning the scrutiny scandal

The drama surrounding the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scrutiny scandal continues.

First, a refresher: Two weeks ago, the IRS admitted to and apologized for flagging about 300 groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a criminal probe into the matter. Conservatives are livid, calling for the resignation of the IRS’ acting commissioner, Steven Miller, and the head of the agency’s tax-exempt organization office, Lois Lerner.

And now for the most recent updates. Yesterday, Lerner invoked the Fifth Amendment during a congressional hearing. But before she did so, she asserted that she was an innocent party in the scandal.

“I have not done anything wrong,” she said. “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 congressional committee.”

Her speech infuriated Republican lawmakers. “You don’t get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross-examination,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said.

Now, experts are questioning whether Lerner forfeited her Fifth Amendment protection by giving her spiel. University of Illinois College of Law Professor Andrew Leipold told the Wall Street Journal Law Blog that the law doesn’t clearly articulate what constitutes a waiver of privileges in this situation. But Lerner’s lawyer says a brief statement of innocence doesn’t constitute a waiver.

In other news related to the scandal, Republican lawmakers have seized IRS emails and other documents that suggest the agency’s lower-level employees developed and carried out the extra scrutiny of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

Read more InsideCounsel stories about the IRS and non-profits:

Tea Party group sues IRS

FBI launches IRS investigation

IRS apologizes for scrutinizing conservative groups

The division of the IRS responsible for tax exemptions has failed to do its job

A proposal to overhaul tax-exempt law

The last political loophole is found in non-profits

Ashley Post

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