IRS official Lois Lerner placed on administrative leave

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Lois Lerner

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Internal Revenue Service official overseeing the unit that targeted conservative groups for several years beginning in the spring of 2010 has been placed on administrative leave, according to Congressional sources in both parties.

Lois Lerner was the director of exempt organizations when the agency filtered applications for tax exempt status for words such as “patriot” and “tea party.”

She publicly revealed the targeting two weeks ago in her answer to a planted question at a bar association event in Washington shortly before an inspector general report on the matter was made public.

After ths news emerged, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement he understood Lerner had been asked but refused to resign by the agency’s new head, Danny Werfel. “She was then put on administrative leave instead,” he said in a statement. A Democratic source told CNN that Werfel called Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus and others saying he asked Lerner to resign but she had declined.

Werfel, who Obama appointed as IRS acting director one week ago, announced late Thursday he was appointing Ken Corbin, who was deputy director of unit which processes tax returns and payments, to oversee the exempt organizations unit.

Lerner appeared before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday and stated she had not broken any laws or agency regulations. She then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to answer questions.

Republicans questioned whether she waived that right by making her opening statement.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa will call her back to testify before the committee, his spokesman said earlier on Thursday.