IRS faces volley of new scrutiny
June 16th, 2014
09:12 PM ET
4 months ago

IRS faces volley of new scrutiny

Washington (CNN) - A new round of scrutiny hit the IRS on Monday as senators from both parties summoned the agency’s chief to Capitol Hill, one House committee set up a new investigative hearing and another issued a subpoena for the head of the agency to appear.

This came after the IRS announced that up to two years of e-mails from former agency manager Lois Lerner were destroyed when her hard drive crashed in 2011. Lerner ran the IRS division that oversaw tax-exempt status and is a key figure in the investigation into why the agency targeted tea party and other groups. The IRS says it has worked to recover the Lerner e-mails by searching through the accounts of dozens of employees who may have corresponded with her.

But that did little to quell sharp reactions across Congress, which has been investigating the matter for over a year.

Fastest to respond was the Senate Finance Committee, whose two top leaders called IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to Capitol Hill for a late Monday meeting. He met with the two men for over an hour, but senators still left with questions and doubt.

“I’m very unsatisfied,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the committee. “I don’t know how they can explain away the loss of two years of e-mails. ... It’s starting to become very suspicious.”

“We’re pressing to get answers whether any relevant information is missing or whether we’ve gotten everything we’ve asked for,” said Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.

The IRS has described the missing e-mails as dating from 2009 to mid-2011. At that point, the agency says its computer system had a strict limit for the e-mail capacity of each employee’s account. If a worker went above that capacity, they had to either move e-mails to their hard drive or delete them. When Lois Lerner’s hard drive crashed in 2011, the agency states, her saved e-mails were lost from her account and computer.

The IRS provided e-mails from 2011 in which Lerner asked IT support staff for help with her broken hard drive and missing e-mails. The agency says it has recovered 24,000 of those e-mails by searching the accounts of 83 other IRS employees who corresponded with Lerner.

IRS chief Koskinen said Monday that his investigators knew about the crashed computer drive in late spring.

It is not clear why the IRS waited until Friday to tell Congress.

When CNN asked, Koskinen responded with a two-fold answer, saying that 1) the IRS didn’t know when the Senate Finance Committee report was going to be finalized and 2) the IRS thought it would have at least until the end of June to go through all the missing Lerner e-mails it had found in other IRS workers’ accounts.

But those in the Senate saw the timing differently. According to two Senate aides, Hatch contacted the IRS on Friday to verify the agency had sent over all pertinent documents to the investigation. Only after that, the aides say, did the IRS notify Congress that in fact thousands of e-mails had gone missing two years ago and that the agency had been working to retrieve them.

The Senate report, which was nearly final, is now delayed indefinitely as the committee tries to determine what material is still missing.

As senators met with Koskinen in private, two House committees also investigating the IRS controversy seemed to vie for who could hold the first public questioning of the IRS chief.

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Michigan, announced that Koskinen has agreed to testify about the crashed hard drive and missing e-mails Tuesday, June 24.

Within minutes of that announcement, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, announced he had issued a subpoena for Koskinen to testify at his committee Monday night, June 23.

Koskinen said he was happy to testify and was aware of and planning to attend the Ways & Means hearing.

As for the House Oversight subpoena, “I don’t know why anybody would subpoena me,” Koskinen said. “I’ve showed up at seven hearings this spring already. If you want me for a hearing, you just call. You don’t have to subpoena me.”

Whether he attends one hearing or two next week, Koskinen faces a torrent of questions.

Both Camp and Issa said they plan to ask the IRS chief if his agency broke the law by failing to preserve e-mails.

To that, Koskinen and the IRS have said that federal law requires that only “official records” be kept permanently and that each staffer must determine which communication is “official” and which is personal or otherwise not official.

But the largest question is whether the agency purposely delayed or tried to hide any key e-mails from Congress. Koskinen points to the agency’s $10 million, 250-person hunt for Lerner’s e-mails and says the IRS wants to complete this investigation as much as anyone.


Filed under: Congress • IRS
soundoff (455 Responses)
  1. Friends

    The most corrupt administration in my lifetime.

    June 17, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  2. Zeke

    I have an idea, the head of the IRS should offer $100,000 reward to anyone in or out of the IRS who may have copies of those e-mails. Also, what about the NSA? They should have copies of everything since they have been reading it all. There are copies all over the place, Obama just does not want them found. It will be his Watergate smoking gun if they are.

    June 17, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. sly

    The administration is trying hard to cover something up, I wonder what it is?

    June 17, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. Tom l

    Sly,
    How very shortsighted of you. Just wait until someone is in office that you don't like and then they use the power of the IRS to impede a group that you do line. Then, and I guess only then, will your eyes be opened to the dangers of your statement.

    June 17, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. Miguel

    Lost emails – this administration has gone over the edge. Everybody knows emails are on the server and not the desktop and that these business records are backup and retained for at least a period of 5 years.

    This is flat out obstruction to hide a crime. When the Republicans take the Senate it is time to impeach Obama.

    June 17, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. cneder

    Everyone knows that in the IRS there are backups, and backups of backups. To lose an email is absolutely laughable.

    June 17, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  7. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Lynda/Minnesota says:
    June 17, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm
    Oh. Is Issa now suggesting that Obama personally crashed Lerner’s computer?

    Why not? After all President Obama and Hillary hopped on AF1, flew to Benghazi, killed Ambassador Stephens and the others, ordered no one to help, jumped back on AF1, smoked a J on the plane ride back laughing all the way back to the U.S.

    Isn't it funny to just make up stories??? I wonder if I could get a job at Fox??😳😳😳

    June 17, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  8. What we have heeyah is.....

    an organization that is so out of control and powerful that it never thought it would have to produce evidence and thus wasn't doing what it requires of every other person, company and group in this country, keep and maintain your records for a set time period. One copy is not proper record keeping, especially if it is on somebody's local laptop hard drive.

    Our federal government is far more incompetent that any of us had ever imagined. Thank God they will now be involved with our healthcare. What could possibly go wrong with that?!

    June 17, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  9. sly

    Sly,
    How very shortsighted of you. Just wait until someone is in office that you don't like and then they use the power of the IRS to impede a group that you do line.
    ====
    I do disagree. The IRS should investigate tax cheats, from both parties. It's been clearly shown that both parties PAC's are investigated.

    'Non-profit' means 'non-profit'. That's the law. I believe in America. And our laws.

    If these groups aren't cheating, they have nothing to be afraid of, right?

    June 17, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. JustSaying

    They can't just get the emails from people she cc'd. They can only get intra IRS emails that way. They have already said thy cannot retrieve any emails that were sent to other agencies – like the White House. Why did it take so long to tell us they lost the emails. To those who support Obama – how can it be that you so blindly accept this type of stuff. Are you the same group who blamed Bush for invading Iraq even though all of his intelligence reports indicated that Iraq had WMDs. None of you believed that the documents supported an attack. You argued it was all pretext to invading. Yet, in this case, only the emails during the relevant time period are lost and you say – oh well it happens. No cover up here – just Republicans complaning again. You lose credibility by not even recognizing how suspicious this looks and the timing of the disclosure and the Lerner pleading the 5th Amendment to not implicate herself in criminal activity. Hypocrites.

    June 17, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. toy_2000

    Here's the hypocrisy as well as the irony: Just imagine an ordinary citizen "losing" emails or any documents that the IRS would need from them. It wouldn't be tolerated for a second and the citizen would be fined, thrown in jail, punished in some way. This government is the most corrupt I have EVER seen. I am not sure what is worse, though: the fact that this is all happening or that we, the people, really have no say in the matter whatsoever.

    June 17, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    I must be a member of the tea-party and didn't know it... IRS sure has a target on me!

    June 17, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. Lynda/Minnesota

    "I wonder if I could get a job at Fox??"

    While I agree it would increase your overall level of income ... nah. I beg of you don't do it. Let's leave selling one's soul to those who best deserve all that it requires.

    I like you just fine as you are ;)

    June 17, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    If this happened to the common folk, no such thing as a missing email or crashed hard drive would be good enough for them, as long as they get our money.

    June 17, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  15. areyoukiddingme?

    Every job I've had in he last 15 years had backup. And the IRS didn't have it? You know they did and you know they restored the emails. I had my hard drive crash several times in my career and it was always backed up every night. This will come to light soon that this was also a lie to cover up something big.

    June 17, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  16. Name

    The IRS gets plausible deniability in this case, but it seems likely that there is record destruction going on. This isn't the Soviet Union. The press shouldn't tolerate a bonfire of public records, even if they can only see the smoke as of right now.

    June 17, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  17. Cathleen

    Emails dont get lost today in the White House or government agencies..They are on servers and backed up to 2 or 3 different areas. If these emails are truly gone it clearly indicates guilt and Obama's administration is beyond dirty.

    June 17, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  18. ThisIsAbsurd

    This is the most pathetically absurd excuse I've ever heard. Everyone, not just IT personnel, knows that e-mail transmission results in multiple copies of each e-mail to be created in multiple locations, and that any respectable IT department regularly backs up data in each location so that recoveries can take place. The government has specific regulations in place requiring financial institutions to be back up enough data so that information can be recovered years after the fact, but we are to believe that the government doesn't do it themselves.

    Given this, We the People are really supposed to believe that a hard drive crash on a user's "local computer" results in the loss of so much data? REALLY???? Wow, our government really gives us no regard. They think that we'll believe anything no matter how foolish it is.

    People, we should ALL be extremely mad at the blatant lies and cover-ups happening here. It's disgusting.

    June 17, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  19. Found them

    This is MH 370. We have the emails on board here --- oh oh, there are some fighters closing on us really really fast.... they're firing.... before we go down, the most interesting email from Lerner was sent to Presi..................

    June 17, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  20. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Lynda/Minnesota says:
    June 17, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm
    “I wonder if I could get a job at Fox??”

    While I agree it would increase your overall level of income … nah. I beg of you don’t do it. Let’s leave selling one’s soul to those who best deserve all that it requires.

    I like you just fine as you are ;)

    Ok it's sometimes best to listen to ones friends over greed!!!😊😊😊😊

    June 17, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  21. louis stamm

    Will the common person be able to use " my hard drive crashed" excuse should they ever be audited ?

    June 17, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  22. Captain Awesome

    This is funny coming from the administration that monitors THE WORLD and records every conversation, every tweet, FB post, google search, spies on news services and reporters (AP and james rosen) and world leaders like Angela Merkel? And they can't find a few emails? What a joke this admin has become. If this were the Bush administration, the media would be demanding he resign.

    June 17, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  23. Sammmy

    Funny how we just watched the hit job erin burnett did on that interview over Iraq and she wouldn't walk across the her room to help those terrorized by the IRS. The problem we have is our media has become so biased & compliant. My dog doesn't obey was well as the press and he is well trained.

    June 17, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  24. Earle

    The LIES told by the Obama Admin are a blatant slap in the face to all smart Americans who know that's what they do best. LIE! No way they lost them as they say and I only went to IT school for a couple of years. Who do they think they are fooling?
    Put this whole Admin on trial for treason, failing to uphold the Constitution, failure to enforce laws on the books, for willfully misleading/lying to the American people, the list is getting really, really long...

    June 17, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  25. Lynda/Minnesota

    "If these groups aren't cheating, they have nothing to be afraid of, right?"

    Yeah. I know if I were to cheat ... ? But hey. I've been audited (and yes, the mistake was made by me). Did I feel threatened or unnerved. Well ... no. I simply called the IRS and confirmed with them that there was indeed a mistake made, and voilà; matter solved.

    June 17, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
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