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. baloney

    The email deletion is a willful act and someone ordered this and they ordered them pulled from their servers. The Gov't I am sure does retain this info and if one person a key administrator is walking around with all the emails on their Hard disk and that disk were to be taken stolen than that information would compromise millions of Americans. Furthermore if we do not have sophisticated system that retains emails and protects emails from data disasters than how do we not know that Hard disk was not encrypted. This makes no sense from a technological standpoint. Can't we just ask the NSA for the emails.
    Does the IRS just POP their emails and no security or protection of privacy? How can the Gov't set HIPPA standards or have PCI compilicance and regulate business if they can not manage and maintain their systems. You know who needs to be fired is the person that is incharge of their computer systems. This is a crime.
    PS lower can someone lower the taxes on the middle class. Investigate me..Investigate you (IRS).BOOOOO

    June 17, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  2. Steve Parsons

    Ben Franklin: "Those who are good at making excuses are seldom good at anything else".
    I'll take Ben's word over any we get to hear these days.

    June 17, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  3. FedUpInSeattle

    The lengths that the Dems make excuses are amazing. Nixon was crucified for much less. It's clear that the "ends justify the mean" to the Left. Because the Left has decided that the Right is evil, any law breaking is justified morally. Just as the OWS crowd destroyed property because they believed themselves to be morally justified. As an Independent and formal Democrat I find it disturbing the amount of hypocrisy coming out of the Left. From trying to control the free speech of the Right, to targeting conservative groups with the IRS to destroying property of those they don't believe are on the correct side of an issue. There is a good deal I don't like about the Right, especially the stuff coming out of their super right religious wing but I find it just as disgusting that good people on the Left would make excuses for the IRS or fellow democrats that use racism to blunt EVERY agreement the Right as about an issue.

    June 17, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  4. sly

    Yawn ... got news for you – large Federal and State agencies are poorly run bureacracies.

    Whether it is the VA, the IRS, FannyMae, SEC, Dept of Education, Dept of Welfare, the Pentagon – these are large organizations with tons of inefficiences.

    No Federal Agency ever does stuff just for a current administration. These are career employees – Republicans, Democrats, Independants – who worked with Bush, worked with Clinton, worked with Obama.

    And investigating or delaying the 'non-profits' from both parties is probably a great idea – these are PAC's, not non-profits.

    Sorry, but the Birth Certificate scandel is about as relevant. Or check out the VA – sounds like 20-30 years of mismanagement.

    June 17, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  5. Spotwelder

    This should be a bigger story on CNN outlets.

    June 17, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  6. tandry

    in the air force all employees must file pertinent emails in records management files (AFI 33-322) I am sure there is an IRS if nothing else an IG investigation is needed

    June 17, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  7. DRJJ

    Injustice like this anywhere in government is injustice everywhere! Time for a flat/fair tax vs 50,000+ biased agents making $100k+/yr to conduct witch hunt for far left.

    June 17, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  8. StateGovernmentWretch

    I have worked in government IT.

    The default archive setting for Outlook is to store mail on the C drive in the user's profile. If this is not modified, it's perfectly plausible for substantial piles of email to be pulled down onto a local drive. Unless you have the systems screwed down very tightly, this can happen even in a well-run environment, and it sounds like IRS would never be mistaken for that.

    More likely – the mailbox limit is so small (our default is 100Meg!) that the person in question simply moved email to a PST file as a matter of routine. That PST file should certainly be stored on a network drive and backed up, but once again, the default is to stash it on the C drive in the profile. Additionally, if the unit is a laptop and the person spends substantial time away from the office, it makes some sense to store the file locally so he can have access to his archived emails when travelling. A prudent IT person would arrange to have said PST file copied to a network drive on login, but network drives might be space limited as well.

    While that does explain some of the nuts and bolts of how this MIGHT happen, it does not explain why, assuming they are guiltless, they didn't simply come out with this when they were asked to produce her email. In the most generous interpretation, they knew there was a problem, knew it was a big deal and sat on important information. Did a small pack of IT people think "Crap. We're gonna get beat up over this. Don't talk about it until we recover as much email as we can." Bad plan, but I've seen that sort of conversation happen.

    The problem is the appearance of a scandal is no less damning than the reality, and that's before we add what most reasonable people must admit smells like a cover up. Even through my Democrat eyes, this is looking unhealthy.

    June 17, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. Tim

    I suppose it is time for Obama to wave his hand in the air and say "these are not the emails you are looking for." I just hope that the general public isn't weak minded enough to be fooled by this Jedi mind trick. But I really do not have that much faith in our society, so I am sure that it won't matter in the end. Everyone has watched Obama's administration surrounded by corruption, but God forbid we blame the guy at the top for the failings of his underlings. By contrast, Chris Christie has been absolutely ripped for a scandal that no one can prove he was involved in, which he also blames on his underlings. That is the difference between being a Republican and being a Democrat these days. If you are a Republican you can do illegal things as long as you don't get caught. If you are a Democrat you can do illegal things and no one cares if you get caught. I really wish we could just elect people who don't do illegal things.

    June 17, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  10. Me

    forest gump

    Worst president ever blah blah, so you slept through 4500 soldiers dead, and 45,000 wounded, 3 trillion in debt, and the sitting president at the time leaves office the richest in history, nah not worth worrying about, Obama wasn't president then, so we'll just make excuses, and say he was lied to, fits your narrative better, but please believe its only because I care so much, grow up and grow a pair,
    Hey why don't you come to the present, it is 2014 now, why do you and your apologists live in the past, I thought Dems were suposed to be "progressive" (LOL I laughed out loud when typing that)?? Oh and a BIG NUMBER of your "guys" voted along with repubs to go to war so get over it!! 3 Trillion in dept LMFAO, what about Obama's over 7 trillion in 6 YEARS, still 2 years to go so it will be close to 10 TRILLION by the end??? Oh and one last statement you should learn to live by, 2 WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT!!!

    June 17, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  11. Yakobi

    I love how the ultra-left-nutjobs are STILL trying to blame Bush for everything.

    Take note that the head of the IRS says it was up to Lerner to decide which e-mails were "official" and were required to be saved by law.

    Seems like everyone in this administration takes "responsibility", but not one is ever held "accountable". They just keep hoping that if they delay each scandal and Eric Holder ignores the law long enough, it will be forgotten until the next scandal.

    June 17, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  12. Me

    The REAL Truth...

    @Information technology expert – The IRS, like all government agencies has an automatic back up. Even if an individual PC or hard disk were to crash ( which in itself is dubious at best and extremely unlikely), there is a back up of all emails on the IRS main frame
    you have no clue... emails are not backed up on mainframes Einstein...
    Oh here we go, the clueless apologists wake up finally.....Actually YOU have no clue, they are backed up on mainframes in THOUSANDS of companies and government agencies. you should actually listen to experts!

    June 17, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. Deserttrek

    the emails willl clearly show the collusion and illegal activities of lerner and many others including the white house. life in prison for all involved at any level and financial penalties. everybody to the clerk level is a criminal and belongs behind bars.

    June 17, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  14. The REAL Truth...

    @rs1201 – I have never in my entire lifetime seen as much corruption, lying, and fraud as I have under this President and this administration.
    Whaaat ?? You're only SIX yrs old.. ?????

    June 17, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  15. Werkin Harder

    The dog ate my homework.

    June 17, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  16. Yakobi

    First thing they need to do is subpoena all the e-mails of Lerner's assistant.
    Second, they need to demand the FBI examine Lerner's crashed harddrive to see what can be recovered.
    Third, they need to demand an independent investigator be appointed. Of course, that will never happen because the trail leads to democrat lawmakers and the White House.

    Why does it surprise anyone the democrats aren't interested in getting to the bottom of yet another cover-up? If this was a republican administration abusing its power to stifle left-wing groups, the liberal press and every America-hating nutjob like sly would be screaming bloody murder. It just goes to show how the democrat party is the party of hypocrisy, or as I call them, "HYPO-CRATS".

    June 17, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  17. The REAL Truth...

    @Cartman – Pretty much every organization has information retention plans and the first step in those is that you don't keep emails on local hard drives. Emails are stored on servers which are backed up in case of hardware failures.
    But not in Govt !! As of 2011, the IRS Outlook server limit per account is 500Mb.. it was 150Mb in 2009. When that limit is reached they let users store "excess" email on local drives in .pst archives. Once those emails have been copied to a pst, they are no longer on the server and cannot be backed up. I know of no Outlook system that has real-time backups.. it's usually batch run after business hours.
    While the haters are using this as yet another incident to point fingers at Obama.. it's pretty obvious that they have no clue of how things work in the email world, the frequency of hard drive crashes or that Lerner already agreed to publicly testify at Issa's witch hunt in exchange for immunity. He refused. Granting that is VERY normal in this kind of investigation, but if she testified and provided nothing (which Issa knows she won'T) then there IS NO political capital or leverage left for the GOP with which to rile up the sheep.

    June 17, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |

    1. "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"

    -Yea, right. Emails are stored on the server.....along with copies. Next BS.

    2. "It is not clear why the IRS waited until Friday to tell Congress."

    – LOL, very clear. See number 1. COVERUP! Clear and simple

    Just say that Obama told them to do it. The reps will whine but the Dems will just sweep it under the table then.

    June 17, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. Me


    What ever did or didn't happen at the IRS, 7,000 Americans did DIE because Cheney lied. No one died because the IRS investigated liberal and tea party groups to make sure they were truly tax-exempt 501's and guess what some lied.
    AGAIN, there is no PROOF Bush or Cheney KNOWINGLY lied, until you can provide PROOF, YOU are the only liar here!

    June 17, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. Russ

    Board looks like America at it's finest. Government lies, gets caught, and the people would rather argue over who is more corrupt, the DEMS or the GOP. Typical. I for one know that pretty much everything out of DC is a boldface lie. I'm just upset that this is the best they could come up with. It's really like they don't care if we believe them or not. At least take the time to work out a move believable lie. As for the statements that it is policy in the govt to keep archived mail on hard drive. Let me get this straight. Govt is telling employees to create a .pst file on their local drive for e-mail, which could be copied to a memory stick, taken offsite, and given to anyone who would then have copies of e-mails from high end officials. Got it. Makes sense.

    June 17, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  21. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    WHO CARES if they SCREW these GOP TAX CHEAT pacs ,or you can wait till November WHEN WE ALL SCREW the GOP politicians THAT THEY PAY OFF EVERY election cycle!!!!!!

    June 17, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  22. Me


    "You really need to stop listening to KNOWN LIARS who have been caught lying repeatedly to cover for their actions."

    Says the FOX addicted political rabble-rouser.
    If all else fails just call everyone a FOX listener etc. Is that all you have?? LOL Pathetic! Oh and FYI I have NEVER listened or watch fox news, but I am sure you will call anyone that says that a liar, who is really the liar, hint: YOU!!

    June 17, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  23. phillangees

    Bull. The failure of a local HDD would not affect the exchange servers or their ability to hand over those emails. This a patently false reason and pretty damned blatant.

    June 17, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  24. Russ

    Can someone please answer the question, if the hard drive crashed, how come it only lost 2 years of data? How come they could reproduce data prior to what was requested? Let me answer it. The only sector that was damaged on the hard drive was the sector that contained the 2 years that was needed, all the rest was fine.

    June 17, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  25. George Vallese

    this is outrageous and needs to be uncovered! this makes Watergate look like child's play!

    June 17, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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