IRS Finds 30,000 Lois Lerner Emails, Enraging ConservativesBy Todd Beamon / NEWSMAX
Five months after the Internal Revenue Service deemed that emails sent by former official Lois Lerner had been lost forever, the Treasury Department's inspector general told Congress on Friday that as many as 30,000 might have been found — and conservatives were outraged.
"Nothing they do surprises me," Washington attorney Cleta Mitchell told Newsmax of the latest development in the agency's targeting scandal of tea party groups. "Nothing they fail to do surprises me.
"I have no reason to think that this is everything," she added. "Now, what I would like to see them do is for the IRS to actually respond to all the subpoenas that have been issued to them by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the last year and a half.
"That would be the best thing they could do: just go ahead and answer all the subpoenas and do what you're supposed to do," Mitchell said.
Two top members of the Senate Finance Committee, Democratic Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon and ranking Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, said on Friday that the Treasury's Inspector General for Tax Administration told them that it had had located data that might have included the Lerner emails.
A Republican congressional aide told The Washington Examiner that the recovered data included as many as 30,000 emails that Lerner sent or received between 2009 and 2011.
The emails were found among hundreds of "disaster recovery tapes" used to back up the IRS' email system, according to the Examiner. The tapes contain at least 250 million emails.
"They just said it took them several weeks and some forensic effort to get these emails off these tapes," the aide told the newspaper.
Lerner, who retired in September 2013 because of the scandal, headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status from the groups. She was held in contempt for refusing to testify before Congress about the debacle.
In June, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified to Congress that the agency could not locate many of Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer had crashed that summer. They probably were lost for good because the disaster recovery tapes store data for only six months, he said.
Koskinen testified that they could only find 24,000 Lerner emails from 2009 to 2011 because Lerner had copied in other IRS employees. The agency had pieced together those emails from the computers of 83 other workers, he said.
Emails of others Lerner supervised during that period also were lost, Koskinen said — and in a July federal court deposition, the IRS said that Lerner's hard drive was destroyed and recycled three years ago.
That ended any chance of retrieving the lost emails, officials said.
The IRS targeting scandal broke in May 2013, when the Treasury's inspector general found that the agency had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by tea party, religious, and other conservative groups.
The screening generally involved lengthy delays and detailed requests for information.
The scrutiny started in 2010 and continued to just before the 2012 presidential election. Among the targeted groups were the Tea Party Patriots; True the Vote, the Houston group that combats election fraud; and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a nonprofit political group advised by Republican strategist Karl Rove.
The panel is among three congressional committees investigating the IRS. The others are the Oversight Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.
"From the onset of our bipartisan investigation, we’ve remained committed to getting to the truth and ensuring that the IRS treats all tax-exempt applicants fairly," Hatch and Wyden said. "Though we are in the final stages of finishing our bipartisan report," they added, the inspector general "has yet to release its findings regarding the lost Lois Lerner e-mails at the IRS."
Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said his panel looked forward to examining the emails.
"Though it is unclear whether [the inspector general] has found all of the missing Lois Lerner e-mails, there may be significant information in this discovery," he told the Examiner. "The Oversight Committee will be looking for information about her mindset and who she was communicating with outside the IRS during a critical period of time when the IRS was targeting conservative groups.
"This discovery also underscores the lack of cooperation Congress has received from the IRS," Issa said. "The agency first failed to disclose the loss to Congress and then tried to declare Lerner’s e-mails gone and lost forever.
"Once again, it appears the IRS hasn’t been straight with Congress and the American people."
The latest wrinkle in the IRS scandal drew only ire from those who have been battling the agency over the unprecedented scrutiny.
"While this revelation is welcomed news, it underscores the fact that the IRS has impeded the congressional investigation into its targeting scheme," Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, told Newsmax. "We are hopeful that the information contained in the recovered emails will shed more light on the calculated scheme to unlawfully and unconstitutionally target conservative organizations in the run-up to the 2012 elections."
The center represents 41 organizations in 22 states that have sued the IRS and the Obama administration in federal court. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last month.
The ACLJ is planning an appeal.
Sekulow said that seven of those groups are still waiting for IRS action on their applications, "with one organization's application on-hold for nearly five years."
"These people have filed things under oath with the judicial branch of government — in our lawsuit and other lawsuits," she said. "They have provided statements to Congress. They’re totally dishonest."
The federal lawsuits Mitchell filed against the IRS in the targeting scandal also were dismissed last month.
"The judge dismissed our cases because he was confident that the IRS had stopped the targeting," she said. "It was a completely ridiculous ruling."
One client, True the Vote, will not challenge the decision.
"They just believe it's hopeless," Mitchell said, adding that the group "has been totally discouraged by the courts."