Washington (CNN) – In a development that contradicts statements by the IRS commissioner, Republican investigators say they have learned that former agency official Lois Lerner's computer hard drive was only "scratched" and some information on it was likely recoverable at one point.
Commissioner John Koskinen told the House Ways and Means Committee last month that Lerner's hard drive had been recycled so the agency was unable to pull emails that the panel wants as part of its investigation of IRS targeting of political groups.
The IRS didn’t respond to a request for comment on the latest development.
Lerner last year resigned as the head of the IRS division examining groups seeking tax-exempt, non-profit status. She has been at the center of controversy over whether she and other senior agency officials deliberately targeted conservative-leaning political groups for special review.
Republicans have aggressively investigated the matter, although Lerner has refused to testify about it to Congress, invoking her Constitutional right not to do so.
In the course of the investigation, the IRS revealed that emails from Lerner over a two-year period were lost when her hard drive crashed, and that it also lost emails from a half dozen other IRS officials.
After interviewing an IT analyst who worked on Lerner's hard drive, GOP House committee investigators say new information shows that it was possible for outside forensic technicians to locate some information from her computer.
“The committee was told no data was recoverable and the physical drive was recycled and potentially shredded. To now learn that the hard drive was only scratched, yet the IRS refused to utilize outside experts to recover the data, raises more questions about potential criminal wrong doing at the IRS,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan said in a written statement released by the committee on Tuesday.
Democrats on the committee, however, were present for the interview and said Republicans are misrepresenting the facts.
“The IT professional in question told investigators that he was unable to recover the data on Lois Lerner’s hard drive – contrary to the GOP’s assertion that he said the data was recoverable. What’s more, he told investigators that he did not think Lerner’s hard drive crash was deliberate,” said Josh Drobnyk, a spokesman for the committee’s Democrats.
The committee is also raising doubts about an affidavit the IRS recently filed in a related court case, in which it again asserted that it tried to recover data from Lerner, but the hard drive was recycled, so it could not do so.
The committee's review of an internal IT tracking system found that Lerner's hard drive was listed at one time as "recovered." An IRS employee interviewed by the committee last week about that issue was unable to explain the discrepancy.
On Monday, the House Oversight Committee released testimony from an interview with another IRS employee who didn’t rule out that some information from Lerner's computer was retrievable.
Koskinen is scheduled to testify again before the Oversight panel on Wednesday.
CNN’s Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.