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IRS official Lerner says ‘I did nothing wrong’ before taking fifth

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"I told him that he should follow the facts wherever they lead. I told him that our job is to stay out of the way and let him do his work," Wolin said.

Issa and other members of the committee complained repeatedly Wednesday that IRS officials had ample opportunity to tell Congress earlier about the targeting but didn’t do so. Issa said his committee has privately interviewed another IRS official, Holly Paz, who said the IRS conducted an internal investigation that reached similar conclusions to George’s report, but a year earlier.

At a glance

News Summary: IRS official takes the fifth

NO FAULT » The Internal Revenue Service official at the center of the storm over the agency’s targeting of conservative groups told Congress she had done nothing wrong and broken no laws.

BRIEF STATEMENT » IRS official Lois Lerner defended herself during a brief appearance the House committee investigating the agency’s improper targeting of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status from 2010 to 2012. Lerner oversees the IRS office that processes applications for that designation.

TAKING THE FIFTH » After making her statement, Lerner involved her invoked her constitutional right to not answer questions at the hearing.

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"Think about it. For more than a year, the IRS knew it had inappropriately targeted groups of Americans based on their political beliefs, without mentioning it" to Congress, Issa said.

While the targeting began in early 2010, Lerner learned of it in June 2011 and ordered that the criteria be changed, according to George’s report.

In early May 2012, Steven Miller, who was deputy commissioner, was told by staff that conservative groups were being inappropriately targeted, George’s report said. Miller later became acting commissioner but has been ousted by President Barack Obama in the wake of the disclosures.

Staff of the Oversight Committee questioned Lerner and other IRS officials last year after receiving complaints from Ohio tea party groups that they were being mistreated by the IRS. In responses to the committee, Lerner didn’t mention that tea party groups had ever been targeted, according to documents. Her responses included 45-page letters in May 2012 to Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Lerner also met twice in early 2012 with staff from the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee to discuss the issue, according to a timeline constructed by committee staff. The timeline said she didn’t mention at either meeting that conservative groups had been targeted.

Also coming under fire Wednesday for not telling Congress about the targeting was Douglas Shulman, who was IRS commissioner from 2008 until last November, while the screening was occurring. Shulman was appointed by President George W. Bush.

On Tuesday, Shulman told the Senate Finance Committee that he learned in the spring of 2012 about his agency’s targeting of conservatives and George’s probe. He said he didn’t tell lawmakers or officials at Treasury — of which the IRS is part — because he only had sketchy information about the situation, was told it was being handled and believed it proper to let George’s office conduct its investigation.

"When you learned that there was a list, you did nothing," said Lynch, the Massachusetts congressman.

IRS practices questioned in House hearing today (WATCH LIVE)

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding a hearing to examine allegations that the IRS unfairly targeted some political groups based on their beliefs.The hearing started at 9:30 a.m. ET. Watch live below:

View "IRS practices questioned in House hearing today (WATCH LIVE)" on Spundge

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