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IRS official won't testify in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Lois Lerner, the IRS official who first disclosed the agency's improper targeting of conservative groups two weeks ago, will invoke her Fifth Amendment right not to testify Wednesday for fear of self-incrimination, her lawyer has told the House Oversight Committee.

Lerner's decision in a letter to the committee was disclosed after the former head of the Internal Revenue Service testified Tuesday that he first learned in the spring of 2012 -- in the heat of the presidential campaign -- that agents had improperly targeted political groups that vehemently opposed President Barack Obama's policies.

But, former Commissioner Douglas Shulman said, he didn't tell higher-ups in the Treasury Department and he didn't tell members of Congress. And he wouldn't apologize for it.

"I had a partial set of facts, and I knew that the inspector general was going to be looking into it, and I knew that it was being stopped," Shulman told the Senate Finance Committee in his first public comments on the matter.

"Sitting there then and sitting here today, I think I made the right decision, which is to let the inspector general get to the bottom of it, chase down all the facts and then make his findings public."

Lerner's lawyer, William Taylor, said, "She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation, but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course."

Shulman, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, left the IRS in November when his five-year term ended. His testimony makes him the top official to publicly acknowledge knowing before the presidential election that tea party groups had been targeted.

Even so, senators from both political parties said they were skeptical of the version of events portrayed by Shulman and Steven Miller, the man who later took his place as acting commissioner and was forced last week to resign.

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