The Internal Revenue Service official at the center of the political targeting scandal invoked her constitutional right not to answer lawmakers’ questions on Wednesday, but defiantly asserted that she has done nothing wrong — prompting confusion about how exactly she was using her right not to incriminate herself.
Lois Lerner leads the IRS office that determines which organizations receive tax-exempt status, and was the first to publicly disclose earlier this month that the IRS gave extra scrutiny to conservative groups.
“I have not done anything wrong, 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,” Lerner told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members. “While I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I have been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject manner of this hearing.”
Lerner added that by asserting her right not to testify, “I know that some people will assume I have done something wrong. I have not. One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I am invoking today.”