IRS Lost Lerner Emails Due to Computer Crash, Agency Says

IRS claims it cannot produce emails between Lerner and White House

Lois Lerner / AP
June 13, 2014

The Internal Revenue Service claims to have lost two-years worth of emails between former IRS official Lois Lerner, who resigned under pressure for her role in the IRS targeting scandal, and outside agencies and groups.

House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) announced Friday that the IRS informed the committee it lost the emails, which the committee was seeking as part of its investigation into the targeting scandal, due to a computer crash in 2011.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the IRS said it went to "unprecedented efforts" to reconstruct Lerner’s emails, including searching emails of other officials, resulting in an additional 24,000 emails being provided to lawmakers.
But because of the crash, the IRS said it cannot produce emails between Lerner and the White House, Treasury Department, Justice Department, FEC, or other Democrat offices.

"The IRS has made unprecedented efforts in connection with this effort, producing more than 750,000 pages of documents to help complete the investigations," the agency said in a statement. "In total, the IRS’s efforts to respond to Congress have involved more than 250 IRS employees working more than 120,000 hours at a direct cost of nearly $10 million."

In a statement, Camp called the disclosure—more than a year into the committee’s investigation—"completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS’ response to congressional inquiries."

Camp also called for an investigation by the Department of Justice and the IRS Inspector General.

"Just a short time ago, Commissioner Koskinen promised to produce all Lerner documents.  It appears now that was an empty promise," Camp said. "Frankly, these are the critical years of the targeting of conservative groups that could explain who knew what when, and what, if any, coordination there was between agencies. Instead, because of this loss of documents, we are conveniently left to believe that Lois Lerner acted alone."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), the Senate Finance Committee ranking member, called the failure of the IRS to produce Lerner's emails an outrage.

"Today’s admission by the IRS that they cannot produce Lois Lerner’s emails is an outrageous impediment to our investigation," Hatch said. "Even more egregious is the fact we are learning about this a full year after our initial request to provide the Committee with any and all documents relating to our investigation.  And while the IRS has agreed to turn over additional documentation, I am still greatly troubled that the administration failed to notify the Committee of this when they first became aware of it. This development will without question delay our investigation. I am committed to ensuring the Committee receives all documentation needed to move the investigation forward. I look forward to a forthright discussion with Commissioner Koskinen on this matter next week."

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist also had harsh words for the IRS.

"This is the worst attempt to blame technology in service of a cover-up since the infamous "18-minute gap" during the Nixon Watergate crisis," Norquist said. "Only in this case the gap is not 18 minutes, but two years. This cover-up is far worse."