Top IRS official to invoke 5th Amendment at congressional testimony

Lois Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt organizations division of the IRS, will invoke the Fifth Amendment in testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, CBS News has confirmed.

Lerner's attorney, William Taylor, wrote in a letter to House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that Lerner "has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation" but, he says, "under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course."

Lerner will be questioned Wednesday about a controversial IRS practice that was employed for about 18 months beginning in 2010, in which conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status were targeted with particular scrutiny. According to an independent inspector general's report looking into potential IRS wrongdoing, Lerner learned about the practice in June 2011.

The IG report indicates that Lerner requested changes upon learning the practice of targeting conservatives. But it's unclear who else at the IRS was aware of the practice, and Lerner did not share her knowledge with Congress, despite repeated questioning into alleged harassment of tea party groups.

Though Lerner's lawyer has requested that she be excused from appearing due to her decision, the Oversight Committee has not signaled any intent to comply.

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