Fireworks on Capitol Hill After Former IRS Official Won't Testify

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

A tense scene ensued on Capitol Hill on Wednesday after a former IRS official targeted by Republicans in an investigation into the agency's targeting of conservative groups refused to testify before a House committee.

Lois Lerner, the former director of exempt organizations for the IRS, invoked her Fifth Amendment rights -- as she had during a previous hearing last year on the IRS's inapprorpriate scrutiny of conservative groups seeking non-profit status -- during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

The scene became particularly tense after Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., immediately gaveled the hearing closed after peppering Lerner with a series of questions that she refused to answer. Democrats were barred from participating in the hearing in any meaningful manner.

Republicans had recalled Lerner to testify after arguing that she had waived her Fifth Amendment rights during a May 22, 2013 hearing by delivering a brief opening statement before asserting her decision not to testify.

Issa had suggested this past weekend that Lerner had, in fact, decided to offer testimony. Her attorneys disputed Issa's characterization, and she ended up invoking her Fifth Amendment privileges on Wednesday.

Issa quickly gaveled the hearing shut over the impassioned objections of Rep. Elijah Cummings, Md., the top Democrat on the committee who was barred from asking questions or participating in the hearing in any official capacity.