Her refusal to testify puzzling, illuminating
“I have done nothing wrong,” Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner told members of Congress on Wednesday.
“I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee,” Lerner insisted to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Then, Lerner told lawmakers that she would not answer their questions and, instead, would invoke her Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating herself.
Lerner heads the IRS office that reviews applications from organizations seeking tax-exempt status. It was her office that harassed dozens of conservative political groups.
Her refusal to testify is puzzling in one way, illuminating in another.
It is puzzling because Lerner has admitted her arm of the IRS discriminated against conservative organizations. She has even apologized for the action. If nothing wrong was done, why not talk about it?
But her change is illuminating in that it appears IRS officials responsible for the harassment thought for a time they could get away with it or, at least, face no punishment more severe than slaps on the wrist.
Now, with lawmakers of both parties clearly angry about use of the IRS for political purposes, the attitude seems to have changed. Good. Lerner and others should be worried. Crimes have been committed – and someone needs to be punished for them.