Here we go: IRS official Lois Lerner to plead the Fifth at congressional hearing tomorrow

Can’t do better than Popehat’s wry take:

Hey, remember when Steve Miller insisted there’s nothing illegal about the IRS targeting a particular political faction for extra scrutiny? He was wrong, potentially: There are civil-rights laws in play as well as the Hatch Act, plus some of the IRS’s own regulations for employee conduct. Lois Lerner and her lawyer know the score:

Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening – or why she didn’t reveal it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor 3rd.

Lerner was scheduled to appear before the House Oversight committee Wednesday.

“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” said a letter by Taylor to committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif. The letter, sent Monday, was obtained Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times…

Since Lerner won’t answer questions, Taylor asked that she be excused from appearing, saying that would “have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her.” There was no immediate word whether the committee will grant her request.

No dice: Darrell Issa’s subpoenaing her anyway, which is precisely the right thing to do. Ask the full slate of questions, many of which will no doubt focus on the endless lies she told when this began two weeks ago, and let her sit there and refuse to answer each one serially on grounds that she might incriminate herself. Let the cable-news viewing public get a good hard dose of that tomorrow and see how it plays. By the way, if you missed Mark Hemingway’s piece yesterday about Lerner’s history at the FEC, correct that now. While there, she went after the Christian Coalition so doggedly (it was ultimately cleared after incurring huge expenses in fighting the agency) that upon hearing she’d moved to the IRS, the group’s lead counsel claims he thought, “Wow, this means the not for profit division is gearing up politically.” And now here we are.

We’re also here, courtesy of Carney’s latest briefing:

Just a day after telling reporters that chief of staff Denis McDonough had learned of the situation about a month ago, press secretary Jay Carney revealed that White House officials had consulted with the IRS on how to initially present to the public the story that the agency had targeted conservative tax-exempt groups for extra scrutiny.

There was “discussion about the possibility of a speech” by Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS’s work on tax-exempt groups, Carney said, and conversation about testimony by the acting commissioner of the agency and “what he would say” if asked about the issue…

The press secretary said the Treasury Department worked with Mark Childress, a deputy White House chief of staff.

Day by day, he’s admitting to a bit more White House involvement in stage managing the IG report than he’d previously let on. First he acknowledged that White House counsel had a general heads up on the report in April; then he said Kathryn Ruemmler had been told the key details about targeting conservatives; then he admitted that Ruemmler had told Obama’s chief of staff; now he’s admitting that they chatted with Treasury about how Lerner should go about fake-apologizing to the public. Sure would be nice to hear from her what input she got from Dennis McDonough, but I guess we’ll have to settle for a humiliating pleading o’ the Fifth. And incidentally, is there anyone who still seriously believes that White House senior staff were sufficiently involved in this the past few weeks that they would advise Treasury on how to frame the IG revelations for public consumption, and yet … never once mention it to Obama? Is there any coherent explanation for that apart from deliberately shielding him, even at the expense of keeping him in the dark about key developments in his own administration?

Via the Standard, two lowlights from today’s testimony by former IRS Commission Doug Shulman. He’d like you to know (a) that he’s sad but has nothing to be sorry about, and (b) like everyone else thus far, he simply has no idea who came up with the idea of focusing on conservative groups.