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GOP slams Lerner for saying she did no wrong

House Republicans on Monday slammed former IRS official Lois Lerner for saying in a new interview that she did nothing wrong related to the agency’s Tea Party controversy.

GOP lawmakers from Speaker John Boehner down to rank-and-file freshmen like Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.) said Lerner’s interview merely underscored how the Obama administration was stonewalling congressional efforts to investigate the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups.

"The American people deserve the opportunity to hear Lois Lerner’s testimony under oath,” said House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

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“If Lerner had nothing to hide and did nothing wrong in the IRS targeting scandal, she would have chosen to answer basic questions about her conduct instead of obstructing Congress’ investigation.”

Lerner told Politico that she “didn’t do anything wrong” in her role as chief of an IRS division overseeing tax-exempt groups, echoing her opening statement before the Oversight panel in May 2013.

“Regardless of whatever else happens, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not sorry for anything I did,” Lerner added.

Lerner has been the central figure in Issa's probe into the IRS’s treatment of Tea Party groups since she became the first agency official to apologize for it 16 months ago. That statement launched a string of congressional investigations, and a criminal probe by the Justice Department.

She has since been held in contempt of Congress by the House, and referred by Republicans to the Justice Department for criminal charges.

Lerner had invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination at the May 2013 hearing, but Republicans ruled that she waived those rights by first proclaiming her innocence in an opening statement.

Democrats were no fans of her, either, with top party officials sharply criticizing her stewardship of the tax-exempt division. But Democrats also maintain that there’s no evidence that the improper scrutiny was politically motivated, or that the White House was involved — and add that liberal groups received improper scrutiny, too. 

In her new interview, Lerner declined to offer many new details on the IRS scrutiny.

But Lerner did say that she believes that GOP lawmakers focused on her because of her apology, and because she decided to take the Fifth.

She also insisted she wasn’t a political person, even though GOP lawmakers have pointed to emails that suggest liberal leanings. (Lerner once called talk radio listeners a—holes, for instance.)

Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), one of the top GOP critics of the administration’s handling of the IRS investigation, said the comments showed once more that Attorney General Eric Holder needs to appoint a special prosecutor to examine the agency. Holder and top Justice officials have said that step isn’t necessary.

“Ms. Lerner's desire to play the victim to the press while refusing to answer questions about her conduct from Congress underscores why the House of Representatives held her in contempt,” said Jordan, who called the interview “a poke in the eye” to the groups that received the improper scrutiny.

For its part, Boehner’s office latched on to Lerner’s comment that she wasn’t sorry for anything she did.

“We still don't know what exactly that entailed,” Boehner’s office said in a release.