IRS faces volley of new scrutiny
June 16th, 2014
09:12 PM ET
6 years 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. Shedevil

    2 WHOLE WHOPPING YEARS OF EMAILS – AND JUST LERNER'S ! How convenient. Isn't the misuse of the IRS the reason Nixon resigned? IMPEACH !!!!!!!

    June 16, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  2. Blake

    Computers die sometimes. If they can find proof that her computer crashed (a new one was ordered), then it seems plausible. 2009 to Mid 2011 doesn't seem to be the timeframe in which allegations of bias are said to take place anyways. It was during 2012 when the Presidential Campaign was on that many groups applied for the tax exempt status and were given extra scrutiny and thus delayed, which in their minds changed the course of the election (yeah right). Not to mention Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was decided in Jan 2010 which led to these groups. Why do they want 2009 emails? lol.

    Regardless, this whole "scandal" is nothing but the IRS actually doing a competent job defending citizen's tax burden from groups that are obviously very political, exploiting tax exempt status due to the. We found out that "Progressive" etc. in addition to "Tea Party" etc. was also key words in their scrutiny searches and the only group to be denied the tax exempt status was a liberal one.

    June 16, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  3. Brett

    NSA should have those emails.

    June 16, 2014 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  4. Maximus

    Daily backups are common practice for the Government.

    June 16, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  5. Toomuch

    "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."

    The section alone tells me they are lying.. This is utter BS...

    June 16, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  6. ED1

    What difference does it make anyway.

    June 16, 2014 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  7. Chris-E...al

    Yea no comment do you know what im saying ? I Can say that i have nothing to give irs so dont get your hopes up dem me dats . Get out and work and wiz by like your m0m and dad did and and mine did . Theres the world out there act rite and and go get it make your own if ABLE do you no who cares about you ? You . not me ?
    Vote the way u want bud and vote smart . thx .

    June 16, 2014 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  8. willie wonka

    The government just isn't trustworthy.

    June 16, 2014 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  9. kenman14

    NO responses on THIS article! Are you kidding me!?

    June 16, 2014 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  10. Guomino

    IRS faces volley of new scrutiny

    Clearly not from CNN who has backed off and looked the other way on the topic.

    June 16, 2014 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  11. Gary

    It just amazes me how congress can set there and say how unsatisfied they are with an agencie. But they don't seem to hear what Americans are telling them about themselves. Wake up congress, we are " Very Unsatisfied" with you.

    June 16, 2014 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  12. aztekman

    what kind of BS are they trying to deliver?
    Email on a single hard-drive and no where else?
    Even the government is not doing things the way they were done in the 90s.
    I cannot believe that there is a single ultra-lib that would believe what the IRS/Lerner is spewing

    June 16, 2014 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  13. Just

    E mail does not disappear. The obama administration truly believes that all all Americans can be fooled as easily as the Obama voters.

    June 16, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  14. Chris Asking Question

    Liberals/Democrats, still nothing to see here?

    June 16, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  15. CALIFORNIA

    How convenient. Check the backup, sever and even the NSA. They all should have copies along with anyone Mrs. Learner Emailed including the White House. IF there's no emails to be found there's obviously a cover-up and this administration at the very least is corrupt for allowing this cover-up or at least incompetent and should be taken out of office any way possible.

    Nixon is a saint compared to what's been happening.

    June 16, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  16. libertyjane

    I used to administer an Exchange server with users running Outlook for the DoD, way back in the dark ages of the late 1990s.

    This scenario is utter and complete nonsense. There are backups of backups of all of Lois Lerner's incoming and outgoing mail, archived off of the Exchange server.

    If the IRS won't hand them over, five members of the Ways and Means committee should accompany an IT guy or gal over to where the tapes are stored, pull them up, and hand them over to Congress. Just go get them. Stop waiting and listening to excuses from that blithering excuse-maker named Koskinen. He's a disgrace.

    June 16, 2014 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  17. libertyjane

    I used to administer an Exchange server with users running Outlook for the DoD, way back in the dark ages of the late 1990s.

    This scenario is utter and complete nonsense. There are backups of backups of all of Lois Lerner's incoming and outgoing mail, archived off of the Exchange server.

    If the IRS won't hand them over, five members of the Ways and Means committee should accompany an IT guy or gal over to where the tapes are stored, pull them up, and hand them over to Congress. Just go get them.

    Stop waiting and listening to excuses from that blithering excuse-maker Koskinen. He'll NEVER turn them over unless you frog-march him to the server backups.

    June 16, 2014 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  18. Guts

    This is a worse excuse than, "The dog ate my homework." Please, all government emails are backed up onto a server.

    June 17, 2014 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  19. Maltytasker

    From an article on Fox News explaining why the GOP thinks Obama is at fault for the IRS "scandal":

    "The report attempts to show that Obama combined his master oratory skills with the “indisputably powerful” presidential bully pulpit to sound a clarion call that was heard by news outlets shaping the national agenda and that led IRS official Lois Learner to start targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status."
    LMAO!

    June 17, 2014 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  20. BErnard

    THey want to get to the bottom of this mess

    June 17, 2014 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  21. homeearning

    Sorry but every server the mail passed through has been backed up. Try again IRS. No organization lives or dies because of a single end user PC.

    June 17, 2014 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  22. Steve M

    Where are the nightly back ups of the servers? Law requires companies to retain copies of all emails. As I understand it law also requires all federal agencies to keep copies of all emails. To blame the loss of emails on an individual user is not believable. Get the IRS IT department to testify. Where are the server nightly backups?

    June 17, 2014 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  23. vikachi

    Liein,cheetin,desevin is all thay seem to do. brakein every law in town,putin us down,thought Obama was somethin new.one of these days,who knows how long,thay'll let out da truth,but baby thay'll all be gone.Rep. Dem. all da same.Silly rabbits there TRICKS are, Us.

    June 17, 2014 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  24. vikachi

    There time will never come,no there crimes will never come,there time will never come,oow ow baby, there crimes never are done. beter to be pore,then A rich lier.

    June 17, 2014 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  25. vikachi

    Barry barry quite con-trary your nose is growin & it's lookin scary.

    June 17, 2014 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
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