IRS faces volley of new scrutiny
June 16th, 2014
09:12 PM ET
8 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.

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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. Malory Archer

    Seriously? All that has to be done is run a search of people she works with and connect the dots and anyone can easily reconstruct her emails to 99.98%. By connecting cc and searching key associates emails – public records – this is easily accomplished.


    It's already been done, but that doesn't satisfy the usual suspects.

    June 17, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  2. The REAL Truth...

    @Anonymous – As an IT networking person with 10 years experience, I can tell you it is physically impossible to loose those emails. Those servers are not only redundantly backed-up at each location, there are multiply server locations scattered across the USA to prevent loss in the event of a disaster. This is the most unbelievable lie anyone god ever tell.
    NOT true.. if users have limited storage on the server and move those to local archives, they are not available for backup. If you'd ever administered an Outlook installation you'd know that. Backups are not instant and redundancy and DR polices are generally batch based...

    June 17, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  3. BurrStone

    The IRS could not have done more to make this look like a criminal coverup.

    June 17, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  4. Sniffit

    "Sadly, this is the defining moment in the Presidents presidency"

    LOL. You guys crack me up. If I had a tax cut for every time you've tried to sell that particular idea....

    June 17, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. Shannon

    This is such a childish tactic. I am embarrassed for Obama even if he doesn't have the personal integrity to have that feeling himself. He did use the IRS as a tool against political opponents. Any democrat that isn't appalled by this and totally disgusted is not an American in my book. If you don't care about the constant lying and diversion tactics of this most transparent administration in need your head examined.

    June 17, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  6. David Ross

    This is the smartest computer in the world to be able to pick and choose the emails that it deletes! Is just a filter of some sort that gives the option of; "HAL, Delete all emails that can send me to prison...."

    June 17, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  7. Bill from GA

    Hector Slagg – " Well Folks,
    Isn't this what you voted for? Don't like it? "

    Well, Gee, Hect, I'm not sure.
    Do I prefer the party that gets us into an unprovoked war, at the cost of over 4000 American lives, couple of trillion dollars, tanks the world economy, and, when out of power, does all it can to prevent the party in power from accomplishing ANYTHING?
    Hard Choice, that!

    And, BTW, I think the IRS was only doing its job.

    June 17, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. DP

    Kurt – You have no clue and I doubt you work for a financial company. Between Dodd Frank, FCRA, and every other regulation-settlement agreement after the meltdown, we cannot delete any data without consent from our legal team. All data including emails is backed up and archived for retention. The standard retention period is SEVEN years, not a short period of time like you state. Even with the seven year retention, data still cannot be deleted if there are outstanding litigation or audit issues.

    June 17, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. iceload

    All those millions od dollar and no email server backup. It's good to be connected. It is so corrupt they don't even feel the need to come up with a believable lie.

    June 17, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  10. Pete

    Can the excuse "my dog ate it" be far behind?

    June 17, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. Russ

    Sent e-mails must go through the server, therefore there is a copy on the server somewhere. Also, really, govt ,servers have limited disc space.

    June 17, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. Bonnie H

    I am embarrassed for the members of congress who are on a witch hunt. Lost emails do not necessarily mean that Obama is responsible. Twenty four thousand emails have already been recovered. None have implicated President Obama. In our country, everyone is innocent until PROVEN guilty.......including PODUS. Get used to it!

    June 17, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  13. barryinlasvegas

    It is obvious that the trail of where the instructions to audit and shut down Tea Party groups started in the White House. There is no other reason for them to claim the computer ate the e-mails. Everyone knows that this information is stored on a main frame server in addition to a PC.

    June 17, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  14. hatchetgames

    Now the IRS is claim that they can't produce emails from six more employees involved in the targeting!!! Okay.. It's time to start locking them up! Democrats now have to admit that something is major fishy happening!

    June 17, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  15. Wes

    lerner, obama and the IRS are all disasters.

    June 17, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  16. Mike

    Coverup! Only a fool would believe this. And only criminals are stupid enough to think can get away with it .

    June 17, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  17. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Bonnie H says:
    June 17, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm
    I am embarrassed for the members of congress who are on a witch hunt. Lost emails do not necessarily mean that Obama is responsible. Twenty four thousand emails have already been recovered. None have implicated President Obama. In our country, everyone is innocent until PROVEN guilty…….including PODUS. Get used to it!

    Uh huh! In this case lost e-mails are the smoking gun. And also when you look like President Obama and have a name like Obama, you gotta be guilty of something...

    Ok I was just joking.
    Elephants in strawberry patches....

    June 17, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  18. Kmkemalyan

    There's a lot of secrecy around the White House no matter who's in office. Many IT people believe those emails are stored and can be retrieved, but what if a method has been developed to permanently delete emails that we, the lowly masses and OUR IT people are unaware of? Anything that goes to the White House goes "poof", if desired.

    June 17, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  19. Idontthinkso

    I'd like an explanation of why Congress, the people who WRITE the laws, don't understand what an official record is. They're the ones who determine what legally has to be saved and what doesn't. Email is on the list that doesn't have to be saved.

    June 17, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  20. Friends

    Idiots in the IRS. My 10 year old knows how to back up a computer. Just another corrupt administration gaffe.

    June 17, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh. Is Issa now suggesting that Obama personally crashed Lerner's computer?

    June 17, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. Idontthinkso

    You obviously don't know much about email systems, and about how the govt does IT. The server is called Exchange, by the way. Not Outlook.

    June 17, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  23. sly

    Ha ha ha ... eat that Republicans!

    I'm 100% in favor of the IRS methods for investigating the fake 'non-profits' in both parties. That's what the IRS is supposed to do. A PAC cannot raise $10 billion for, say, Mitt Romney, and claim it is an 'educational' non-profit.

    I suggest the GOP go back to their #1 issue: "Where is His Birth Certificate? Huh? Come'on, show me the certificate. If I cannot hold it in my own hands, President Obama is really not President. Squawk squawk".

    June 17, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  24. calmdown24

    I guess they might get the emails that are surrendered willingly from people she sent them to. But what if. . . say that she sent one to Holder, do you think he will come forward with it or crash his hard drive as well?

    June 17, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. Russ

    Start with the e-mail retention policy. It'll will explain it all. Then go to the Disaster recovery plan, will explain the backup policy and the amount of tapes they have. Public companies MUST adhere to the Sarbanes Oxley act of 2002. Which means that the information is there, unless it has been destroyed, which would take a fair amount of time to delete the audit trail. At least a year I would guess.

    June 17, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
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