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An embattled IRS official takes the 5th: Damning proof of a crime? – Yahoo! News

By Harold Maass

Lois Lerner’s silence before the House Oversight committee is bad optics for the Obama administration.

Lois Lerner, a high-ranking IRS official, invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions in an appearance Wednesday before a House committee investigating the tax agency’s improper targeting of conservatives. IRS leaders and an inspector general have said there is no evidence anyone broke any laws in the case, in which IRS employees singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012. Conservatives disagree. Is Lerner’s apparent concern that she might incriminate herself an admission of guilt, and proof that laws were in fact broken?

Some say her move doesn’t exactly help her case. Lerner, head of the IRS’ tax-exempt organizations division, which did the profiling, was the one who, at a legal conference two weeks ago, disclosed the IRS scandal. She discovered in June 2011 that some staff had used terms such as “Tea Party” and “Patriots” to weed out groups that wouldn’t qualify for tax exemptions due to their political activities. “She ordered changes,” note Richard Simon and Joseph Tanfani at The Los Angeles Times. “But neither Lerner nor anyone else at the IRS told Congress, even after repeated queries from several committees, including the House Oversight panel, about whether some groups had been singled out unfairly.”

To critics of the Obama administration, Lerner’s silence speaks volumes. Steven Miller, who was forced to resign as acting IRS commissioner after the scandal broke, testified that the IRS had done nothing illegal. That didn’t sit well with members of Congress, so when Lerner’s lawyer, in a letter to the House Oversight committee, said there was no point in making her appear since she’s taking the Fifth, committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued a subpoena anyway. Lerner’s testimony — or lack thereof — offers “the nation vivid evidence that something is up, possibly criminal, with the IRS targeting of Tea Party organizations,” says Thomas Lifson at American Thinker:

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