White House Calls IRS Investigation a ‘Conspiracy Theory’

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White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest implied during Friday’s briefing that the investigation into IRS targeting of conservative groups was simply a “conspiracy theory.”

The probe has come back into the limelight after the agency revealed it lost two years worth of former tax-exemption chief’s Lois Lerner’s emails that would go to the heart of the case. Earnest was asked whether investigators or White House counsel had looked for emails between the White House and aides of Lerner.

“There have been 13 months of multiple congressional investigations, including 14 congressional hearings, 30 interviews with IRS employees, 50 written congressional requests, and 750,000 pages of documents, and all of that has done nothing to substantiate false Republican claims of a broader political conspiracy,” Earnest said. “So I don’t know if you’re floating another conspiracy or if this is a request from Republicans who are floating a conspiracy or what exactly the suggestion is. But the fact of the matter is we’ve cooperated extensively, and despite that cooperation, you know, we’ve seen continued allegations of Republican conspiracy theories that just never pan out.”

Fox News reporter Ed Henry followed up saying Earnest didn’t seem to be taking the allegations seriously.

“I think it’s fair that we recognize that software moves on and that archiving in a digital age is not as easy as it might seem to the public,” Earnest said.

Full exchange:

Q: On the investigation of the emails, did the investigators or White House counsel look at — or look for emails between the White House and the chief of staff or other aides of Lerner?

JOSH EARNEST: Are you asking about emails that would have been exchanged –

Q: From the White House to Lerner’s chief of staff or her other aides, top aides.

EARNEST: Well, I guess I wasn’t aware that that was a specific request from Republicans. Did they ask for that?

Q: I don’t know. I’m asking you. (Laughter.)

(Cross talk.)

EARNEST: Roger, it turns out that there have been 13 months of multiple congressional investigations, including 14 congressional hearings, 30 interviews with IRS employees, 50 written congressional requests, and 750,000 pages of documents, and all of that has done nothing to substantiate false Republican claims of a broader political conspiracy.

So I don’t know if you’re floating another conspiracy or if this is a request from Republicans who are floating a conspiracy or what exactly the suggestion is. But the fact of the matter is we’ve cooperated extensively, and despite that cooperation, you know, we’ve seen continued allegations of Republican conspiracy theories that just never pan out. Ed.

Q: Just on that point, we understand — I think what Roger’s trying to get at is what I asked Jay a couple days ago, which is that we understand you turned over — the IRS has turned over tens of thousands of emails, but when two years of emails from the time period that’s being investigated, when tea party groups were allegedly targeted — we don’t know all the facts — how can you say there’s been extensive cooperation if two years of emails are just missing?

You don’t seem to be taking that point seriously.

EARNEST: Well, I guess what I would say, Ed, is that I think it’s fair that we recognize that software moves on and that archiving in a digital age is not as easy as it might seem to the public. Those aren’t just my comments, but those are actually the comments of Congressman Darrell Issa on February 26th, 2008. So, his suggestion that somehow there’s a political conspiracy going on here is not consistent with what he’s previously said on those kind of issues.

Q: But again, it’s not a conspiracy. If the emails were there you could show, hey, there’s no conspiracy. That’s the question. I understand you want to keep saying it’s about the Republicans, but why are two years missing?

EARNEST: Why are these Republicans — (inaudible) — anything about Republicans?

Q: Why are two years of emails missing?

EARNEST: Because there was a — the computer crashed. And what we’ve seen is a demonstrated effort by this administration and by the IRS to try to cooperate with legitimate questions that have been posed by the committee on this.