A top US tax official refused to testify before
Congress Wednesday, citing her right not to incriminate herself in a
hearing on a scandal surrounding the Internal Revenue Service's
(IRS') targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny.
President Barack Obama and his administration have come under increasing pressure since it was revealed this month that the IRS had improperly scrutinized conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
"I have not done anything wrong. 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 congressional committee," Lois Lerner, who oversees tax exempt organizations for the IRS, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
However, she said she had been advised by her attorney not to testify.
"Because I'm asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I've done something wrong," she said. "I have not. One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment [of the US Constitution] is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I'm invoking today."
The federal tax agency admitted to targeting non-profit groups for extra scrutiny beginning in 2009-10 based on suspected associations with the so-called Tea Party, a conservative political movement that advocates smaller government and lower taxes. Republicans have charged that the bias served to help re-elect Obama, a Democrat, in 2012.
Obama has expressed anger over the revelations and sought the resignation of the acting IRS chief last week, but the White House continues to face questions about what it knew about the investigation and when it knew it.
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