Lois Lerner attorney negotiated over testifying, emails show

Internal Revenue Service Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner makes a statement during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee before refusing to testify to the committee May 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

An attorney for former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner unsuccessfully tried to secure a deal in which she would testify privately before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Wall Street Journal reported, leading to confusion over whether she would speak publicly about her role in the agency's targeting scandal.

Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., announced on "Fox News Sunday" that Lerner would testify before his committee. Just a few minutes later, though, Lerner's attorney told Politico she planned to continue to assert her Fifth Amendment rights and would not testify.

According to the Journal, which reported on emails released by committee aides, Lerner was seeking the ability to give a private deposition even if she did not receive immunity for doing so in order to avoid the public attention. Then, insisted her attorney, William Taylor, she would have fulfilled all her obligations under the subpoena.

"I can tell you that we can probably move forward if the committee agrees that her appearance at a deposition would satisfy any obligation she has or would have to provide information in connection with this investigation," Taylor wrote on Friday. "For her to take the risk inherent in waiver (of her Fifth Amendment privilege), she would need assurance she is resolving her issues with the Committee." In another note to a committee aide, he confirmed she was willing to testify.

Issa did not want to cancel the planned Wednesday hearing - for which Lerner was seeking a delay - until he was satisfied she had testified fully.

A committee spokesman told the Journal that the emails were released in order to "set the record straight" about Lerner's willingness to testify.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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