WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 17: Former Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service Steve Miller (R) and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George (L) testify during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee May 17, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to examine the IRS scandal of targeting conservative groups. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (USA Today) -- The Internal Revenue Service official who oversaw the agency's tax-exempt office will invoke her constitutional right against self-incrimination and decline to answer questions when she appears before Congress on Wednesday.
In a letter to the House Oversight Committee, Lois Lerner's attorney cited the criminal investigation into the IRS's decision to target Tea Party groups for greater scrutiny beginning in 2010.
"She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation, but under the circumstances, she has no choice but to take this course," attorney William Taylor wrote Monday. He asked that his client be excused from appearing at the hearing chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
"Ms. Lerner remains under subpoena from Chairman Issa to appear at tomorrow's hearing," committee spokesman Ali Ahmad said. "Chairman Issa remains hopeful that she will ultimately decide to testify tomorrow about her knowledge of outrageous IRS targeting of Americans for their political beliefs."
Lerner was the IRS official responsible for the office in Cincinnati that created a "be on the lookout" list for tax-exempt applications from groups using the words "Tea Party," "Patriot" and "9/12 Project" in their names. Those applications were held up for more than a year while applications from liberal groups requesting similar status were routinely approved, a USA TODAY review found.
An audit by the IRS inspector general found that Lerner tried to immediately correct that list when she learned about it in 2011 but replaced it with criteria that included groups "critical of how the country is being run." Members of Congress from both parties want to know why she never informed Congress - even under direct questioning.
Instead, IRS acting Commissioner Steven Miller has testified, Lerner came up with a plan to plant a question at an American Bar Association conference May 10 to allow her to apologize before the inspector general's report came out last week.