On Friday, the IRS told Congress that they cannot locate many of the emails to and from Lois Lerner, a key figure in the Tea Party targeting scandal.
From the AP:
The IRS said Lois Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011, wiping out an untold number of emails that were being sought by congressional investigators. The investigators want to see all of Lerner’s emails from 2009 to 2013 as part of their probe into the way agents handled applications for tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups.
The IRS has been very resistant to providing any emails or documents related to the scandal. Watchdog organization Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request for the documents, and naturally, the IRS refused to provide them. It was only after the group filed a lawsuit that they were able to obtain the documents – which were quite damning:
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton explained the implications of the new information:
“These new documents show that officials in the IRS headquarters were responsible for the illegal delays of Tea Party applications. It is disturbing to see Lois Lerner mislead the IRS’ internal investigators about her office’s Tea Party targeting. These documents also confirm the unprecedented pressure from congressional Democrats to go after President Obama’s political opponents. The IRS scandal has now ensnared Congress.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, expressed incredulity over the claim that the batch of emails was missing:
“Do they really expect the American people to believe that, after having withheld these emails for a year, they’re just now realizing the most critical time period is missing? If there wasn’t nefarious conduct that went much higher than Lois Lerner in the IRS targeting scandal, why are they playing these games?”
The emails are being sought in order to determine if anyone outside of the IRS was involved in the scandal.
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, echoed Issa’s sentiments about the emails:
“The fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS’ response to congressional inquiries. There needs to be an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice, as well as the inspector general.”
The IRS claimed to have gone to great lengths to try to recover data from Lerner’s computer in 2011.
The AP explains:
In emails provided by the IRS, technicians said they sent the computer to a forensic lab run by the agency’s criminal investigations unit. But to no avail.
The IRS was able to generate 24,000 Lerner emails from the 2009 to 2011 because Lerner had copied in other IRS employees. The agency said it pieced together the emails from the computers of 82 other IRS employees.
But an untold number are gone. Camp’s office said the missing emails are mainly ones to and from people outside the IRS, “such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, FEC, or Democrat offices.”
Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist called the episode “the worst attempt to blame technology in service of a cover-up since the infamous 18-minute gap” in former President Richard Nixon’s Watergate tapes.