A House panel has voted to ask the Department of Justice to pursue criminal charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner.
The vote in the House Ways and Means Committee was along party lines, 23-14, with all Democrats opposing the measure.
The move to disclose confidential tax information to the public in the letter of referral to DOJ, which Democrats on the committee called a political stunt in an election year, is unprecedented -- according to committee aides.
Lerner has invoked the Fifth Amendment when called to testify before Congress about the alleged targeting of conservative groups for additional tax scrutiny.
Republicans on the committee say that they uncovered conduct by Lerner that "suggest(s) that Lerner may have violated multiple criminal statutes.”
Those allegations include that Lerner used her position to improperly punish conservative organizations, that she provided misleading statements to an inspector general investigating the IRS targeting, and that she may have disclosed confidential taxpayer data.
The letter of referral now goes to the Department of Justice for review.
On Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is expected to vote on a resolution to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress. That measure will go to the full House for another vote.
NBC's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.
First published April 9 2014, 10:04 AM
Frank Thorp V
Frank Thorp V is a producer and off-air reporter covering Congress for NBC News. He started this role in June 2011. Thorp is responsible for managing coverage of the House of Representatives, and supports Capitol Hill correspondents Kelly Oâ€™Donnell and Luke Russert in their reporting on Congress.
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Previously, Thorp served as NBC Newsâ€™ long-term presence in Haiti after a devastating earthquake hit that country in 2010. Thorp has also worked at CBS News.
He studied psychology at West Virginia University, and lives in Alexandria, Va. with his wife and chocolate lab.