Politics & Government

Lerner breaks silence on IRS scandal

Former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 5, 2014
Former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 5, 2014 AP

Lois Lerner has spoken.

The woman at the center of a political scandal at the Internal Revenue Service involving inappropriate targeting of conservative organizations broke more than a year of silence to repeat her innocence.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m proud of my career and the job I did for this country,” Lerner said in an interview published Monday by the Washington news organization Politico.

The story did not offer any new explanations from Lerner, who famously proclaimed her innocence before a congressional committee in May 2013 and then refused to answer questions, citing her protections against self-incrimination.

It remains unclear why she chose not to speak, which led the Republican-led House of Representatives to hold her in contempt and recommended to the Justice Department that she be prosecuted for obstructing the efforts of lawmakers to get to the bottom of the scandal.

“The American people deserve the opportunity to hear Lois Lerner’s testimony under oath,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, who heads the House Committee on Government Oversight, which has led the probe of the IRS targeting. “If Lerner had nothing to hide and did nothing wrong ... she would have chosen to answer basic questions about her conduct instead of obstructing Congress’ investigation.”

The Politico story focused on personal price Lerner, 63, has paid, isolated from former colleagues and unable to find work amid ongoing congressional and judicial probes and lawsuits. She is burning through money paying legal bills, the report said, but remains in a $2.5 million luxury home shared with her husband, a wealthy lawyer who is postponing retirement.

Lerner did not rebut allegations in detail raised by conservative lawmakers, but broadly repeated her innocence, noting she was “not sorry for anything I did.”

Republican lawmakers have releasd selective portions of emails that appear to show the political leanings of Lerner, a registered Democrat. But Lerner insisted that “my personal opinions have never affected by work.”

The former head of the IRS exempt organizations division was defiant about the computer hard drive that failed in 2011 and resulted in lost emails covering the period in question on the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

“How would I know two years ahead of time that it would be important for me to destroy emails, and if I did know that, why wouldn’t I have destroyed the other ones they keep releasing?” she said.

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