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. Bubba

    There should be copies of the emails on the email servers or on backups. If there are no backups then their entire IT department should be fired for incompetence. I backup every computer on my home network a few times a week. It's not rocket science.

    June 17, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  2. John Kennedy

    They spent 10 million on trying to recover this information, another gigantic waste of taxpayer money. Why did they not call up the NSA who I am sure tracks their emails.

    June 17, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. Chris

    Malory – It is not ok that ANY group gets harassed. Is that clear enough? Why do you seem to be ok with the IRS harassing any political group, regardless of affiliation? That is the fundamental problem with a federal government that has too much power, they use that power to reward friends and punish enemies.

    June 17, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. sly

    Ho ho ho ... funny watching the Swift Boat Party try to block the IRS from doing it's job!

    Heck, the Republicans shut down America – not just the IRS, but they shut down our Education, our Health, our Military, our FBI, CIA etc...

    Tax cheats get investigated. Period. Don't matter whether you are a TeaKKKlan or a Republican or a Democrat.

    Stop whining, sound like little Swift Boat girlie men.

    June 17, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. Prof Fricke

    Dear IRS: I trust you completely. Accidents happen. Dear NSA: I trust you completely. You are only doing your job. POTUS: I trust you completely. You tell us you love us and I don't want to be called a racist. Hillary: I will trust you completely once the party tells me its time.

    – yours truly, every Democrat.

    June 17, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Lynda/Minnesota says:
    June 17, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm
    “If these groups aren’t cheating, they have nothing to be afraid of, right?”

    Yeah. I know if I were to cheat … ? But hey. I’ve been audited (and yes, the mistake was made by me). Did I feel threatened or unnerved. Well … no. I simply called the IRS and confirmed with them that there was indeed a mistake made, and voilà; matter solved.

    Same here Lynda, same here. It's happened to me before too.

    June 17, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. rob

    Eventually the truth will come out regardless of the liberal media trying desperately to cover for the Obama administration. The wheels are truly coming off the Obama bandwagon. From the domestic scandals piling up to the manufactured crisis at our southern boarder to the worlds worst terrorists groups running wild through the middle east to the dictators trying to fill the vacuum left by the Presidents and Hillary's disastrous foreign policy failures, we have nothing less than chaos.

    June 17, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. Chris

    sly – "If these groups aren't cheating, they have nothing to be afraid of, right?"

    I could make the same statement regarding the Patriot Act and the NSA wire taps. If you are not involved in any criminal enterprise, what do you have to be afraid of? Who cares if your rights are violated, if you aren't doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear.

    June 17, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  9. jez oh peete

    Im no fan of this administration but these people at the IRS are lifelong bureaucrats. These are simply bureaucrats trying to save themselves from legal trouble.

    June 17, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. John Smith

    Email sent from government computers go through government servers and there should be copies of those email on those servers, regardless of whether they are still on the individual computer's hard drive!

    June 17, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. chief

    Federal law requires copies. Federal law requires the hard drive stored in a vault when removed from the computer. Federal law requires immediate retrieval of any privacy act information. So unless the logs show they complied, send the to jail.

    June 17, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. VL

    I am sure all the kids now have an excuse not turning in their term papers or homework. "My dog ate my paper." or "My dog chewed my computer out."

    June 17, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  13. jabberwolf

    Hard drive crash? Um do they think they are lying to children? Email cache is kept on the local hard drive, the emails are kept on the server which have daily, weekly and monthly rotations. The monthly and yearly and monthy backups are TAPE backups that are kepted as archive.
    That excuse the "hard drive crashed" – is something you'd get from a grade school kid and his teacher. And even then its a pathetic.
    I would start threatening jail time for contempt of congress unless they turn over the emails. Its on a tape backup – order the tape backup for that year and/or months for that year.

    June 17, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  14. taxman

    The IRS uses a lowest bidder internal e-mail system and is required every few months to clean out old deleted messages in order to keep the lowest bidder computers able to function. Perhaps if Congress in their infinate "wisedom" had reversed the budget cuts it forced on the IRS, this would not be a problem. BTW statistics show for every dollar spent on the IRS, they bring in over $100.00 in revenue from people who are actually trying to pay their taxes. Once again we will have another dog and pony show along the likes best exhibited by Joseph McCarthy in his so called Communist Witch Hunts of the 1950's which uncovered exactly ZERO "communists subversives" in the federal government. This is an election year and the BS is already starting hitting fans everywhere. The biggest victim is the truth.

    June 17, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  15. Guest

    the computer crashed in 2011. and it is 2014 and we are just finding out. Do they expect anybody to believe that....

    June 17, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  16. catori Shadi

    I am still waiting for the BUSH-APPOINTED REPUBLICAN who was head of the IRS at the time in question, to be grilled.

    June 17, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  17. jim

    1. Nothing happened
    2. Only a couple 'rouge' employees in OH
    3. OK, those 'two' and a couple others
    4. No one in the administration knew while it was happening
    5. OK, Chief Counsel knew but that's it
    6. Wait a moment, the Inspector General reported this all 5 months before the elections in 2012 but there is nothing being lied about here
    7. Our Potentate only learned about this from watching the news
    8. Whhaaaat scandal?
    9. huh? Did y'all say something....?

    June 17, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. rosethornne

    Uh huh.

    And how about THOUSANDS of emails that the Bush/Cheney war criminal white house conveniently "lost"?
    I didn't notice the hypocrites in Congress getting all in a tizzy over THAT.

    June 17, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  19. Harvey Tabasky

    The biggest joke is felonious Darrell Issa issuing a subpoena for anybody to appear before his committee. With all the advances in DNA technology over the last three decades, you'd think someone in Ohio would be re-opening the arson investigation of his business burning down to see if new clues can be gleaned from the evidence. Oh, I forgot, the Republicans control Ohio.

    June 17, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  20. Calm Down People

    OK, let's take it easy. I'm sure the IRS has these emails backed up someplace. It is just going to take some time to go through the millions of boxes of 5.25" floppy disks to find them. Thanks you for your patience America.

    Your Competent Federal Government

    June 17, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  21. Mudbug Mama

    Lynda from Minnesota, you surely can't be that much of a simpleton. I worked for the govt for 27 years...even tho you can keep emails on your own local hard drive separate from the server in a local .pst file, the govt still has ALL the emails sent back and forth on their servers. So your email may be on a hard drive, a server, and a couple of back of servers. BUT is never GONE if your local hard drive fails. I find it stunning that the Obama Admin thinks the public is that stupid and even more stunning that so much of the Dem public really is that stupid.

    June 17, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  22. Brian

    sly – I like your idea. Whoever commenting calling it short sighted is political minded.

    Honest people want to hold whoever in power accountable. We have NO preference on what might come out. If you did something, you must accept the fact that you may get exposed and held accountable. When everyone believe there is your side and my side of things, government gets as screwed up as ours is. I don't believe in either DEM or GOP, I believe in hold them ALL accountable and represent people as they are supposed to do. None of us got anything to gain through their corruption, folks are mistaken if they think being liberal means they are obligated to support Obama's corrupt ways.

    June 17, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. Andrew Friet

    All they need to do to recover the emails is go to the NSA. They have everything backed up

    June 17, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  24. Chuck

    It now appears that her emails were not the only emails 'lost' in this investigation.

    June 17, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  25. cribbooky

    If the IRS can lose eMail data, they can lose filed tax returns. Now there can always be a reasonable doubt on this basis. Thanks, IRS!

    June 17, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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