IRS faces volley of new scrutiny
June 16th, 2014
09:12 PM ET
3 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. Anonymous

    The statement, "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" can not be true. Emails are not stored on a desktop PC's hard drive. Emails are stored on an email server that everyone shares. Usually, the server has tens of hard drives that automatically back each other up when one fails, so no data or emails are lost. Ask yourself, if your desktop PC crashed recently, did you lose all of your emails from Yahoo or Gmail? No, you didn't because they are stored on Yahoo's and Google's servers. Someone needs to send the FBI over to the IRS and find the email server and the hard drives. The American People deserve to know what's going on at the IRS and the answers to the questions surrounding this scandal. Its been over a year and we still don't have answers!

    June 17, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  2. dave

    There is no such thing as a simply "lost" emails. Either they can be retrieved with use of computer forensics, even on crashed drives, or they have been VERY specifically eliminated through multiple steps so that they can not be found.

    June 17, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Really

    Wow – does anyone, even those left of our ultra liberal Pres Obama believe this could happen 'on accident'? Why does the govt believe they can insult our intelligence daily? Oh, because they are NEVER held accountable. If only that excuse would work for Joe citizen come audit time.

    June 17, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  4. Yakobi

    I say it's high time we disband the IRS completely and replace it with a national sales tax.

    That's more fair to everyone than a flat tax, as the rich would pay a lot more than the poor since they buy a lot more, the poor would pay their fair share instead of getting off scot free like they do now, and even scofflaws like crack dealers would be paying it.

    June 17, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    "AGAIN, there is no PROOF Bush or Cheney KNOWINGLY lied, until you can provide PROOF, YOU are the only liar here!"
    ----------------------------–
    Bush and Cheney have never offered credible proof that there were WMDs beyond their word of mouth. Let's not forget that they claimed that the actual evidence so secret that it could jeopardize our national security if they revealed any of it. That somehow revealing evidence itself would compromise our intelligence sources on the ground.

    Let's not deny the fact that U.N. weapons inspectors were on the ground in Iraq for months and months, right up until the day that U.S. started bombing Baghdad, and they found nothing.

    June 17, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. TischaFL

    Imagine for a moment, an administration that is not obama's. Imagine that administration targeting groups that disagreed with it. Now, imagine the accusations, the riots, the threats and the chaos. Oh, wait, that's what obie wants. I keep thinking I still live in the USA.

    June 17, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. Me

    Chris

    kurt – So it is ok if it was left leaning groups that got punished? You may think the point of this story is the IRS targeting right leaning groups...my concern is the IRS targeting ANY groups. The abuse of federal power is problematic, no matter who the target of that power of victim of that abuse is.
    ____________
    1000% agreed, the liberal gang on here just doesn't get that, they think it is all personal toward them and liberals! Some might be but not me, I don't like that they are doing it to any group, that piece of information, that they targeted (if true) liberals groups more does not change anything! It is still an overuse of power and must stop!

    June 17, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. Kelso

    The NSA should have all of them.

    June 17, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  9. MIke

    CNN why don't you go after all these scandals especially this one full steam ahead. IF YOU FIND THINGS OTHER MEDIA HAVE NOT YOUR RATINGS MIGHT ACTUALLY SKY ROCKET!

    June 17, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  10. laeinstein

    CNN This Just IN- It has been discovered that the person responsible for erasing the numerous IRS Emails is the same person who erased the famous 24 minutes of the Nixon tapes.

    June 17, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  11. Mark

    This should be CNN's main story! This administration is the biggest bunch of liars and cheats I've ever seen. No one has the balls to do anything about it though!!

    June 17, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  12. sly

    "Imagine that administration targeting groups that disagreed with it. Now, imagine the accusations, the riots, the threats and the chaos."
    ====
    You are right – I remember well the Nixon, RayGun and Bush years, where anti-war demonstrators were shot and killed, and political opponents were 'swift-boated', where the Administration illegally sold machine guns to OUR ENEMIES for profit (hey, Ollie, how's the mansion).

    Yup – I remember all the dark days under those 4 crooks.

    June 17, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  13. JC31

    Wow, this should be a WAYYY bigger story on CNN.
    1-IRS targets political groups
    2-They lose Lerner emails because her computer crashed
    3-Now they say 5 other peoples emails are lost (contradicts #2)
    4-Emails are kept on servers that save information at multiple locations (contradicts 2 and 3)
    Their story defies common knowledge of any IT guy. Apparently the journalist at CNN aren't even interested enough to ask the subject matter expert down the hallway out of fear of what this really is.
    This is shaping up to be Obamas watergate

    June 17, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  14. Michelle

    It's interesting to me how we can have so much backed up on a server, but the emails from this person for the period under question are mysteriously gone because of a computer crash?? Isn't that what we have servers for? Isn't that why things are backed up in multiple places?? And the IRS of all places has to have multiple back ups. This just doesn't add up.

    June 17, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. The REAL Truth...

    @Me – Oh here we go, the clueless apologists wake up finally.....Actually YOU have no clue, they are backed up on mainframes in THOUSANDS of companies and government agencies. you should actually listen to experts!
    --------------------------------------–
    LOL – OK.. thanks for sharing your complete lack on knowledge on the topic. I AM AN one of those EXPERTS!! I've been in IT for 25 yrs and haven't seen a single email stored on a mainframe in the last 20 yrs. They are ALL stored and backed up to servers Timmy.

    June 17, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  16. PTC

    If the emails were on the plane that was "lost", CNN would be all over the story.

    June 17, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. jim

    It really does not matter if the emails suddenly are found in that lost email cloud in the sky. What matters is the fact that they lied to a senior Senator Orin Hatch. If they would lie to Senator Hatch-then there is much more to this then some missing emails. So far Obama's timed his scandals well. Always release them late Friday- busy new day. But with this one it won't work. Independents like myself, democrats & republicans understand just how serious it becomes when the IRS starts shaking people down at the request of elected officials. I don't know if this is tied to the White House. But I bet there are some people in the justice department right now wishing they had a computer crash.

    June 17, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  18. Bill inVA

    What is even more damning is the fact that some how not all the e-mails were lost. Forget about what the e-mails are, but when selected e-mails for a finite critical time under review, to selected destinations are lost that does not sound like a hard drive crash. And by the way, I had annoyingly experienced two "crashes" in my time. None of my emails were lost. They were on back up servers.

    June 17, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  19. david saint

    lol i wonder, when will the GOP hold hearings about Bushs abuse of power with the IRS? Unlike this, there is actual evidence showing his admin used the IRS to attack certain critics who dared speak out against Bush or the Wars. But, like the Patriot act, they pretend it never happened and just direct all their anger at Obama instead. smh its no wonder this country is falling apart. We have one party whos sole purpose has been finding anything they can to oust Obama, and have ignored their primary jobs. Going so far as to make false accusations before their hearings, then dedicating the hearings to trying to prove their accusations correct, instead of simply finding the truth. Unfortunately, the right wing has such a hard on for Obama, they dont seem to care. lol though, they will in the future when the shoe is on the other foot. Some of us have long memories (like when i was accused of being un American because i dared speak ill of the President of the US by right wingers..only to have them turn right around and partake in much worse before Obama was even sworn in!)...

    June 17, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  20. Scott

    The IRS need to prove that they are innocent not us to prove they are guilty. The burden of proof is on the tax payer when the IRS comes after them. It should be the same when the IRS is in question.

    June 17, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  21. Really?

    Rudy NYC-I give u what the Dems said when they gave Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq... based on the intelligence they all saw and vote. It was wrong but at the time they based it on the intelligence then that was even confirmed by Bush and a coalition of 48 other countries. 17 UN resolution against Saddam.
    "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security."– Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002

    June 17, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Ppl who claim that this cannot happen simply do not understand how e-mail is archived. By DEFAULT, Outlook auto-archives e-mail every 2 weeks, and guess where it the default archive location is. It's on the local hard drive that's where it is. So, unless the defaults were changed, which is entirely believable that they were not, her e-mails were archived to her local hard drive and then lost when the hard drive crashed. Not hard to understand at all. Blame Microsoft.

    June 17, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  23. Jac

    How about CNN search and replace 'missing plane' with 'missing emails' and spam that every day?

    IRS sends their backups to offsite storage every day. The only way to 'lose' them is to look them all up in the logbook, order them from the offsite storage company, then wave a degaussing coil over the tapes one at a time.

    June 17, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  24. frank

    Worst case of the "dog ate it" we have ever seen.

    June 17, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  25. don in ms

    Here is a news flash this is the next Watergate and Obama and Jarrett need to get their resignation papers ready .

    June 17, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
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