Lois Lerner's attorney: Contempt charges would be "un-American"

Lois Lerner, former director of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division at the Internal Revenue Service, exercises her Fifth Amendment Right against self incrimination during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill on March 5. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

An attorney for former IRS official Lois Lerner sent a letter to congressional leaders on Monday, asking for an opportunity to explain to the House why it should not hold Lerner in contempt.

"Holding Ms. Lerner in contempt would not only be unfair and, indeed, un-American, it would be flatly inconsistent with the Fifth Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court," attorney William Taylor III wrote to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., the Wall Street Journal reports.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee earlier this month voted along party lines to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress, and a vote in the full House is slated for next month. Republican leaders have pursued the charges after trying unsuccessfully to get answers from Lerner about the undue scrutiny the IRS put on certain politically engaged, tax-exempt groups.

Lerner appeared before the Oversight Committee last year, gave an opening statement, and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination three times before being excused. She returned again last month and spoke even less, once again exercising her Fifth Amendment rights.

In his letter, Taylor argued that "the law is clear that she did not waive her Fifth Amendment privilege by proclaiming her innocence." Furthermore, he argued that "the Committee did not satisfy the minimum procedural requirements for holding her in contempt, because it did not order her to answer any questions."

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