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Lois Lerner pleads the Fifth

robert romanoLois Lerner, director of exempt organizations at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is pleading her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself in the ongoing Congressional investigation over targeting by the agency of the tea party.

Lerner was set to give testimony before the House Oversight Committee on May 22, but a May 20 letter from her lawyer, William Taylor, changed all of that.

"She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course," Taylor wrote in the letter to committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa exclusively obtained by the los Angeles Times.

Taylor claimed that the hearing would "have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her." He asked that Lerner be excused from the hearing, but Issa refused and issued a subpoena.

In her opening statement, Lerner insisted, "I have not done anything wrong," that she broke no laws or regulations. Members asserted that by delivering a sworn statement to profess her innocence, Lerner waived her right to refuse to give testimony. Issa excused her, reserving the right to recall her pending legal counsel on the question of whether she had waived her rights.Of course, the purpose of questioning Lerner is to find out who authorized or ordered the targeting of tea party and other organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status for special scrutiny. Also, once the groups were targeted, to find out who authorized or ordered that invasive and improper follow-up questions be asked of applicants. Lerner directs the office responsible for these violations.

Members also want to know why Lerner did not disclose the scandal to the committee even when she knew about it, and instead provided "false or misleading information" four times last year.

According to a Treasury inspector general report, Lerner supposedly discovered the targeting of the tea party in June 2011.

The drama comes as the White House has confirmed it strategized with Treasury officials over Lerner's disclosure of the scandal by planting a question at an American Bar Association conference.

Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens said the most recent disclosures "again underscore why a special counsel is needed in this investigation."

"It may be the only way to find out what the White House knew and when it knew it," Mehrens said.

Americans for Limited Government