June 29th, 2014
10:28 AM ET
5 years ago

Lerner attorney: Client vilified by GOP out of convenience

(CNN) - The attorney for embattled former IRS official Lois Lerner said Sunday that Republicans are denigrating an innocent woman for purely political purposes.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, attorney William Taylor said it's "convenient" for the GOP to suggest that Lerner's computer crash, which destroyed documents sought by a House Committee, means something "nefarious" was going on.

"This is election-year politics," Taylor said on "State of the Union" in his first television appearance on the controversy.

"It's convenient to have a demon that they can create and point to."

An investigation that was initially focused on whether the IRS unfairly targeted certain political groups became more convoluted last week when the agency announced the destruction of Lerner's e-mails - lost in an apparent hard drive crash.

Taylor said Lerner walked into her office one day and her computer screen was blue. Her hard drive had crashed.

"The truth is this was one of those things that happened," he said. "At the time she did everything she could to retrieve it. She reported it right away. And that's all there is to it."

Lerner, who ran the division that carried out the IRS targeting, resigned last year after the Treasury Department's inspector general found that employees working under her used "inappropriate" criteria to scrutinize certain groups, particularly those with conservative political names.

Koskinen: IRS troubles 'suspicious,' but no crime uncovered

"People who want to give money to elections and do so in a tax-free way have to submit themselves to the scrutiny of the IRS to be sure they are complying with the rules that limit political activity," Taylor said.

"If the IRS is not looking at political activity in the C4 applications, which is what this is, they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing. So it's like saying ‘They're examining us for political activity’ when that's the exact criteria they're submitting for their applications."

Since her resignation, Lerner has refused to testify at hearings, invoking her constitutional right not to do so – a move that stirred suspicion that she had something to hide.

Koskinen's donations raised questions as House GOP calls for more documents

Taylor said, however, the reason he advised his client to invoke her Fifth Amendment right was because “there was no pretense that this would be a fair process” in the investigation led by House Oversight chairman Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California.

Issa said Sunday, also in an exclusive interview to CNN, that Taylor "has said things that are not correct, or disingenuous or outright lied a number of times, it's been shown by e-mails."

"(An) attorney trying to get his client off the hook after flubbing and taking the fifth certainly will say and do a lot of things. But they're not held accountable," Issa said on "State of the Union."

Taylor wouldn’t respond specifically to Issa’s claim that he had lied, but again suggested Republicans are using his client has a political tool to gin up conservative enthusiasm ahead of the midterm elections.

Asked by Crowley if Lerner violated federal law requiring the agency to back up its communications, Taylor said his client “did exactly as she was required to do."

Another branch in the investigation, further inflaming Republican sentiment against Lerner, was the disclosure last week by Issa of e-mail exchanges showing that Lerner asked, while still on the job in 2012, whether the tax agency should investigate an issue involving Republican Sen. Charles Grassley.

E-mails: Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner queried Sen. Chuck Grassley invitation

The e-mails centered on an invitation from an unnamed group to Grassley to attend a seminar. What prompted Lerner's interest in December 2012 was whether travel expenses for Grassley's wife were included and whether that would violate income tax rules. However, it was not clear from the e-mails whether Lerner, who reached out to a co-worker, was inquiring about a potential audit of Grassley or whether she thought the IRS should look at the group. Her lawyer said she acted appropriately.

Taylor maintained his client’s innocence on all fronts, insisting that from the beginning “(Republicans’) only purpose to have her there is to vilify her.”

Lerner has received death threats against herself and her family. Taylor said she is not receiving protection.

“She has to go on living her life,” he said. “She's been made to be a villain in a way that's very, very unfair.”

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.


Filed under: Darrell Issa • IRS • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (153 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @YahRight: Regarding Lerner pleading the Fifth, just because she did so, doesn't mean she is guilty. My guess is she did it so fox and the RWNJ echo chamber would be able to twist her words and use them against her.

    And why would she think this? Because the gop/tea bags have perfected the art of lying. From Glenn Beck's mixing footage to show his "march" was well-attended to fox never playing Hillary Clinton's COMPLETE statement that included the phrase "What difference does it make?" in regard to Benghazi, righties have proven themselves to be liars.

    Lerner did the right thing.

    June 29, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. radar8

    I'd please the fifth, too. The criminal, Issa, is only out to make a name for himself. He holds all of these sham hearings, not because he has proof of anything, but because he's on a fishing expedition. The Issa/hearings mess is a sham and simply a tool that the GOP is using to make Obama look bad.
    With the GOP it's constant hears without proof of anything. Millions of dollars wasted. More filibusters than any congress in history... and they still have nothing.
    I hope that everyone that Issa calls please the fifth. Issa deserves no better.

    HOw about a jobs bill? How about fixing what you say is wrong with ACA? How about caring about WHO killed the 4 in Benghazi and not how you think it was reported incorrectly? Won't you guys do ANYTHING for the American people other than trying to make the other party look worse than you?

    June 29, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  3. stakhigh

    Abolish the IRS, it is robbing Americans of the ability to build a better place for themselves. The US is in a state of decline and higher taxes, prices, stagnant wages, and a corrupt gov't. is not the answer. Instead of paying taxes to this corrupt private institution, use the money to fund all our schools, build a better infrastructure, etc.. Systemic change is what was promised, but it is the same old stuff.

    June 29, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  4. Vijay

    This is the real truth about IRS scandal:

    Any non profit organizations should come under 501 C status, PAC's money should not and will not consider as a non profit organizations, since these PAC's have motive to give it.. This is called bribery... Whether you accept it or not, it is 100 % true... They shouldn't be exempted at all under any circumstances.

    Why Koch brothers and George Soros needs tax exemption status?

    Another note:

    This issue had been started when Dwight Eisenhower was president, IRS changed a word from 'EXCLUSIVELY' to 'PRIMARILY' in 1959. Congress can fix the law today too... If they do that, both the Parties PAC will not be exempted for Tax...

    So, the wording is a real scandal, not the one which Darrell Izza wasting tax payer dollars for that phony scandal.

    June 29, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @frontgatee: "Lerner is a HERO as far as most people are concerned , she went after tea baggers and that's a good thing. You go girl."

    The IRS went after progressive groups, too. And the most sustained scrutiny was for groups advocating for medical marijuana.

    The Citizens United ruling unleashed a flood of groups claiming tax-exempt status, when many were just front groups for political fundraising. Although the IRS' methods were sloppy in trying to root out the illegitimate ones, they were more than right in trying to do so.

    June 29, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  6. Paul Cooper

    Innocent of what?

    Lois Lerner has been lying about her activities at the IRS since before this story ever broke.

    June 29, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    The number of 501(C)(4) group applications doubled between 2010 and 2012, due to the Citizens United ruling. Low-level workers at the IRS Cincinnati office flagged about 300 applications for additional review based on keyword search to located tea party groups.

    NONE of these groups had their status revoked or denied and the IRS apologized for the mistake.

    BTW, left-leaning applications were also flagged for review.

    But you'll never hear that on the whine-a-thon known as fox.

    June 29, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  8. trioofsixes

    You blame the GOP? LOL it was YOUR party who threw you under the bus and you know it. They need to be able to say "well, at least obabo dinn know nuffin" like incompetence is a good substitute for corruption. (you're both)

    June 29, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. danicalifornia

    The IRS is a dangerous organization and is supposed to be apolitical. These people not only have all our personal information, but they will have control of enforcing the Affordable Care Act. Instead of insulting and being further divisive, let's get at the truth. The IRS has already admitted to targeting conservative groups and releasing donor information in violation of the law. The question is who gave the marching orders and how high up the food chain did it go. This is about integrity in government and our freedoms and privacy. I don't care what party affiliation is in power, no party or government organization is above the law. Stop listening to these paid political bloggers who are spewing so much hate. These people need to be held accountable. Why should they get away with this when you or I would end up in jail? The rule of law is what is at stake here.

    June 29, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  10. The REAL Truth...

    @Sara – There are many companies, and even many federal employees, that can restore data from a crashed Hard Drive. Anyone who's anyone in IT knows this has been true for more than 30 years. No hard drive, in the history of mankind has every completely crashed beyond recovery. Perhaps the 'Windows' files became too corrupt to operate properly, but the data stored on that Hard Drive(s) is completely recoverable. I would state my entire family's life on it and so would anyone else in IT.
    ------------------------
    Then your family would be dead honey.. hard drive crashes are VERY OFTEN unrecoverable...and any REAL IT person knows that.. to the point where they simply replace then and throw the old one away. What you are talking about is users accidentally deleting systems files – a common problem for home users (and often recoverable), but most business users do not have admin rights on their PC's so that can't happen. A BSOD that is hard drive related often means a head crash, and recovery is NOT guaranteed at all. Data recovery attempts DESTROY the hard drive as the platter are removed during the recovery attempt. If no data can be recovered,the drive is trashed. Any REAL IT person knows that...

    June 29, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  11. Whatup

    Lerner is a liar, plain and simple. She professes her innocence and that she has done nothing wrong and then proceeds to take the 5th??? Yea, nothing wrong there.....

    June 29, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. JohnRJohnson

    "NO ONE PLEADS THE 5TH AMENDMENT UNLESS THEY'RE GUILTY!"

    This is the kind of stupidity that is rampant among people who are 100% certain that Lois Lerner is guilty. The fact is, in THIS country, invoking the 5th amendment is NOT an admission of guilt to ANY crime. And it is unAmerican to suggest that it is. Lerner's attorney is right and I applaud him for advising her to invoke her right at Darrell Issa's outrageous hearings, which are classic political witch hunts. If ANYBODY has been dishonest in this process, it has been Mr. Issa, who is using an important committee of the US Congress to further his political career and increase his chances of being on the GOP ticket in 2016. The man betrays his oath of office every single day.

    June 29, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  13. redrock

    Oh BooHooo.....you mean an IRS "big whig" gets the same kind of treatment from the Government that we "little nothings" who pay their taxes get from the IRS???????? Bout time in my book!!!

    June 29, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  14. david

    We have laws on the books that no one knows. The number of pages; unknown. They are written at a grade level above that of manditory education yet are required to be followed, thus read and known. Never, ever did any one law ever get brought up thru government required education. Not even murder, literally all knowledge of law comes from shows like law and order and through other individuals. How we can be held responsible for any is rediculous. I am a proponent of making a new amendment limiting all laws to 18 years. Thus we can't be required to know laws that are not created in a time in which an individual was at least alive and represented in our government. Murder obviously and other serious crimes would be reupped. But at least then some of the retarded laws could be weeded out. I mean no one from my grandparents generation has any moral authority over me. The u.s. prior and still is a land filled with bigots who use lies to continue a system of tryanny and corruption. Our leader and ever citizen is a criminal. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Bring back reason. Land of the free.

    June 29, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  15. Jessica McGwin

    I think that after what is coming out about the VA and the surface of that has only been scratched. I think that it is very producible that the IRS is systemically targeting and profiling specific groups and people. What I think is very "convenient" is this computer crash. If it was me the IRS was after they would just make up what ever they want. Poof any proof that the taxes were paid. They can now tell the American People the whole system crashed and we all have to pay our taxes again because they have no record of US every paying. So do you see where this is going?

    June 29, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  16. The REAL Truth...

    hkirwin – Actually it is standard practice. After determining that the drive itself can not be recovered the only thing left to do "is" to destroy it. Should it have been kept for a time, probably to prove that it had crashed and the data unrecoverable. But that was probably not told to the IT department that this drive had data subject to an investigation, which means it simply went through the normal process which was destruction.
    =======================
    Actually its isn't. Not for a publicly held company or a Government enity, especially the IRS. Try using my hard drive crashed an I destroyed the hard drive in an IRS audit.
    ---------------------------
    Actually it IS normal procedure.. once drives are determined to be bad, they are basically replaced and the bad ones thrown in a box to be recycled. If they are sent to be recovered (NOT normal procedure, since business data is not supposed to be stored on local drives) that drive is DESTROYED during recovery... if no data is recovered the components of the drive are thrown out. I'm amazed at the number of folks who "believe" the BS they are fed about things and slurp the coolaid.!!

    June 29, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  17. drake mallard

    to the GOP Where do you get your facts from....the bathroom Wall?

    to gop you mean that when Bush was President the IRS investigated some groups? I am shocked. So how many groups was that the IRS investigated over that 8 years? and how many were denied status? And how many had to answer long forms?“

    June 29, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Sure, Lerner's woes my be convenient political fodder for the Republicans, but that doesn't change the fact that she's a criminal.

    June 29, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  19. barryinlasvegas

    If she is innocent why did she plead the 5th? Truth is, she was a very powerful executive working for the IRS who knowingly broke the law. In addition to being a long term employee familiar with all the IRS rules and regulations, she is a lawyer which makes her abuses even worse.

    No PR campaign can clean up this criminal behavior.

    June 29, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  20. SixDegrees

    What a surprise. An attorney claiming his client is innocent.

    And ignoring the whole "The dog at my homework", "The dog at 5 other people's homework", and "I'm not going to incriminate myself" spiel that same client is spewing.

    June 29, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. IDontThinkSo

    @hkirwin

    I back up the other guy's statement. It is a Government requirement and standard security practice to physically destroy failed hard drives. The Govt actually pays extra money on IT maintenance contracts to get a rider to allow them to keep and destroy failed disk drives on covered computers and storage arrays.

    June 29, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    First of all it's not the IRS, it's the DRS....the Democrat Revenue Service. The DRS admitted to targeting Tea Party groups. It's a corrupted agency that favors big government Democrats. IRS Koskinen has donated $100,000 of his personal money to Obama and the Dems – he may as well work for the Dems.
    Regarding Lerner, your joking right? If she tried to retrieve the emails, then they would be there. If she wasn't part of the cover-up, then she would not have pleaded the 5th.
    This is pathetic – for more on death of a country – follow your local Democrat.

    June 29, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. Eagle0841

    Breaking news- new study reveals a large majority of computer drive crashes are caused by subpoenas.

    June 29, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. Susan McFarland

    @frontgatee:

    Most people believe Lois Lerner is guilty as sin, and going after anyone for their political beliefs in this country is disgusting. Shame on you for encouraging the silencing of anyone who has an issue with the current administration – or any administration. You are trying to destroy one of the greatest freedoms we have as Americans.

    June 29, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. John

    Wow did Candy go easy on him.

    June 29, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7