IRS Official Lois Lerner: 'I Did Nothing Wrong'

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Lois Lerner, head of the IRS division that targeted conservative groups, "pleaded the Fifth" Wednesday, choosing not to testify at the congressional hearing.

"I have not done anything wrong," she told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "I have not broken any laws. I've been told by my counsel to invoke my right not to testify.

In a letter to the House panel, Lerner's attorney said his client "has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation," but she refuses to testify because of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

Lawmakers, furious that she would tell her side of the story and then refused to be cross examined, are threatening to recall Lerner again to testify.

"How can she give an opening statement? She ought to stand here and answer our questions!" Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said.

Lerner was subpoenaed by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who said she lied to Congress last year by not informing them then that conservative groups were being targeted.

"Congress was misled," he charged. "The American people were misled."

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee grilled outgoing IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, and J. Russel George, the Treasury Department inspector general who submitted the report detailing the IRS scandal.

Shulman was the one running the IRS when agents were targeting conservative groups. Tuesday's hearings were the first opportunity for lawmakers to question Shulman, who left the IRS last November when his five-year term ended.

"I intend to get to the bottom of what happened," Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said. "We will follow the facts and see where they take us."

In a reversal from its previous claims, the Obama administration now admits the IRS did inform a top White House lawyer last month about its investigation into improper scrutiny of conservative groups.

But according to the administration, that lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, stopped short of sharing any information with President Obama.

"She made the decision on the judgment that it was not necessary or appropriate to inform the president of this, and that didn't happen," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

That top White House officials didn't know is a notion Republicans and a lot of Americans find highly suspect.

The IRS scandal has angered and revitalized the Tea Party movement, which began, supporters say, to fight this very thing.

"It's ungodly, it's un-American and it's just plain wrong to target Americans because of what they say about the government," Paul Johnson of the Grassroots Tea Party of Boone County said.

"What the IRS did to conservative Tea Party and pro-life groups starting in 2009 was not just wrong; it wasn't just bad; it was criminal and it was the behavior of a tyrannical government," Ulysses Arn, co-coordinator of the Rockford Tea Party, said.

In Cincinnati, hundreds of protestors marched on IRS headquarters, demanding an end to this abuse of power.

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Heather Sells

Heather Sells

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Heather Sells enjoys reporting on a variety of issues for CBN News. Some of her recent stories have focused on religious liberties, technology, AIDS, overseas missions, domestic trafficking, and politics.  Follow Heather on Twitter @SellsHeather and "like" her at Facebook.com/HeatherSellsCBNNews.