Lois Lerner Says 'I Have Not Done Anything Wrong'--Then Takes the 5th

By Susan Jones | May 22, 2013 | 10:44am EDT

IRS official Lois Lerner is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 22, 2013, before the House Oversight Committee hearing. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) - The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee dismissed Lois Lerner from Wednesday's hearing, after the "star" witness pleaded the Fifth Amendment, invoking her right to avoid incriminating herself.

Lerner, who headed the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations division, gave a brief opening statement, most of which is transcribed here:

As director, I'm responsible for about 900 employees nationwide and administering a budget of almost $100 million.

My professional career has been devoted to fulfilling responsibilities of the agencies for which I have worked, and I am very proud of the work that I have done in government.

On May 14, the Treasury Inspector-General released a report finding that the exempt organizations field office in Cincinnati, Ohio used inappropriate criteria to identify for further review applications from orgs that planned to engage in pol activity, which may mean that they did not qualify for tax exemption.

On that same day, the dept of justice launched an investigation into the matters described in the inspector-general's report.

In addition, members of this committee have accused me of providing false information when I responded to questions about the IRS processing of applications for tax exemption.

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.

And while I would very much like to answer the committee's questions today, I've been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing.

After very careful consideration, I have decided to follow my counsel's advice and not testify or answer any of the questions today.

Because I'm asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I've have done something wrong. I have not. One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amend is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I'm invoking today. Thank you.

Lerner -- with the help of a planted question -- revealed the agency's targeting of conservative groups two weeks ago, apologizing at the time for what had happened.

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