IRS says it's unable to recover subpoenaed Lerner e-mails in computer crash
June 14th, 2014
04:39 PM ET
4 years ago

IRS says it's unable to recover subpoenaed Lerner e-mails in computer crash

(CNN) – Republican lawmakers are slamming the Internal Revenue Service, with one calling for an immediate investigation, after the agency notified Congress Friday that it was unable to recover former official Lois Lerner’s e-mails from January 2009 to April 2011 because of a computer crash.

The agency made the disclosure in a letter sent to Congressional investigators Friday afternoon, according a statement from Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-Louisiana.

Lerner, former director of the IRS’ exempt organizations division, is a central figure in the IRS controversy involving the agency’s targeting of tea party and other interest-specific groups. Her e-mails were subpoenaed by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, in an attempt to learn whether other outside agencies were potentially involved in the flagging of applications from those groups.

In a statement, the IRS said that Lerner tried to recover her e-mails after her hard drive broke down but was unable to do so. The agency said it then worked backward to recover the missing e-mails from recipients of the messages.

"At the time, Ms. Lerner asked IRS IT professionals to restore her hard drive, but they were unable to do so,” the IRS said. “Nonetheless, the IRS has or will produce 24,000 Lerner e-mails from this 2009-2011 time period, largely from the files of the other 82 individuals. The IRS's production to Congress of the 67,000 Lerner e-mails is nearly complete."

On Friday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp issued a statement questioning the credibility of the IRS’ compliance with the congressional investigation for not having raised the issue sooner. He also called for an immediate investigation.

“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’s response to Congressional inquiries,” Camp said. “There needs to be an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the Inspector General.

But the IRS said it advised the Senate Finance Committee three months ago that it had completed the production of materials related to the committee’s investigation and that the missing Lerner e-mails are part of an additional search.

Issa went a step further, saying that the crash was “convenient” for the Obama administration, and that they are playing games. Echoing Camp’s comments on credibility, Issa said that the supposed loss of Lerner’s documents damages the credibility of claims that the IRS is complying with congressional requests to seek the truth.

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said that while he is concerned about the missing documents, he is also “greatly troubled” by the administration’s failure to notify his committee of the computer crash when they first became aware of it. This new information, he says, “will without question delay our investigation.”

Hatch says he is looking forward to a “forthright discussion” with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on the matter next week.

The IRS insists that it has made unprecedented efforts to produce the documents needed to help complete the investigations. According to a statement, their efforts to respond to Congress’ requests have involved more than 250 IRS employees working more than 120,000 hours at a direct cost of nearly $10 million. The agency says it has thus far delivered more than 750,000 pages of documents to Congress.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, was less critical, but said his committee is working to determine if any documents were withheld. “We’re working to finalize the Committee’s bipartisan investigation of the IRS’s review and processing of applications for tax exempt status,” Wyden said in a statement. “To date, our effort has included a review of hundreds of thousands of related pages of documents and over 30 interviews. We are now working with the IRS to determine if any relevant documents were not provided and will continue to work toward a release of our bipartisan report.”

Filed under: Darrell Issa • Dave Camp • IRS • Orrin Hatch • Ron Wyden
soundoff (782 Responses)
  1. Rick

    So much for transparency.

    June 14, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  2. Gary

    With all the technology available don't even try to tell us that this information cannot be restored unless some expert purposely used his knowledge to completely delete it. How much BS does this administration think we can believe before everyone realizes that it is completely out of control.

    June 14, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  3. Judy

    The video featured does not match the headline.We knew this MONTHS ago! The headline pertains to missing E-MAILS.Where is the video on this story???

    June 14, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  4. SteveinTexas

    Emails are stored on the server not on a desktop. Complete BS but I'm not surprised.

    June 14, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  5. Sean T What a joke. What's next? Dog ate em?

    This sdmin is an embarrassment and is lying its arss off.

    June 14, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  6. gordon motta

    How many more lies and cover ups do the American people need before Obama is impeached ? I voted for Obama in 2008 thinking he was going to make a great president. Now, I know he is not fit to be president of the United States. After every scandal he makes a speech, then leaves Washington for a fund raiser and golf. Nothing ever gets fixed. Under Obama the United States is in real decline. We need Obama out of office now before we go down like Rome did. This has nothing to do with his skin color,he is just terrible president.

    June 14, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  7. Caly

    Funny how no e of our emails could disappear.

    June 14, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  8. William Miller

    This is sort of like the strict teacher saying to her students, "My dog at my lesson plans."

    June 14, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  9. BobPA

    I'm going to tell them the computer ate my receipts.

    June 14, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  10. The REAL Truth...

    Computer hard drives in the corporate world [barely] last 2-3 yrs on average. Think about your own folks! While it's convenient for the administration that they are not recoverable, if there's no retention policy in place – except local storage – this is often the outcome... but of course, it's an election year so the the GOP and it's faithful will scream cover up, just like they have with Benghazi.

    June 14, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  11. Allan

    All servers are supposed to have backup. Did the backup crash too?

    June 14, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  12. Bill

    I'm sure the IRS will be OK if I all of a sudden lose some forms representing my income, they are so understanding on that. Oh BTW: Since when does a computer crash actually destroy data on disk?

    June 14, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  13. srcactus

    That nasty IRS computer. Maybe it will get indigestion
    The same malady that we have gotten from most actions by this administration.

    June 14, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  14. Joe M.

    "Not a smidgeon of corruption"

    June 14, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  15. Quark ok

    Network servers , not an individual's computer, have all of those emails. And besides, by law isn't she required to maintain hard copies too?

    June 14, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  16. Susan

    Ah yes, the obama administration.....

    June 14, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  17. Robert

    Are we suppose to belive this? Do they think we are this stupid!

    June 14, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  18. reconmarine

    This is criminal destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice. NO ONE is stupid enough to believe this.

    June 14, 2014 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  19. PaPilot

    Do they really expect us to believe this BS?

    June 14, 2014 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  20. Steve851

    How very Nixonian

    June 14, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  21. Will

    I am sorry but the excuse of "The dog ate my homework" will not work. IRS requires employers to back up email on a central server just in case they are audited. So you are telling me they do not have the same requirements for themselves?

    June 14, 2014 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  22. Scruffy

    IRS can find our emails from decades before, but say they cannot find their own "missing" emails? Amazing.

    June 14, 2014 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  23. bigdoglv

    It's obvious that the govt takes the American public as idiots.

    June 14, 2014 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  24. Lindley

    Eh, it's possible. These things do happen. Frankly though, this probably "looks" worse than whatever was in those emails.

    June 14, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  25. chad8912

    What a bunch of crap. Smh.

    June 14, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
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