Top IRS Official Refuses to Testify at Hearing

The director of the IRS division that singled out conservative groups refused to answer questions Wednesday at a House hearing on the program, as a Democratic lawmaker warned there would be "hell to pay" if the agency stonewalls Congress on its investigation.

The IRS official, Lois Lerner, invoked the Fifth Amendment Wednesday as she declared she would not testify or answer questions on the advice of counsel.

"I will not answer any questions or testify about the subject matter of this committee's meeting," she said.

However, her statements prompted confusion in the hearing room, as she delivered a brief opening statement in which she claimed she had done nothing wrong. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said that given her other remarks, she may have "effectively waived" her rights.

After further deliberation, she was ultimately dismissed.

It was an unusual start to Congress' third hearing on the controversial IRS program. Before Lerner spoke, Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch warned that if IRS officials don't start cooperating more, "it will lead to a special prosecutor" being appointed.

"There will be hell to pay if that's the route that we (choose) to go down," he said.

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