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. Noshiet

    Quiz: What government has a HUGE data center capable of tracking all Internet traffic in the U.S. simultaneously, but somehow claims they lost some e-mails? without backup or any redundancy? At the IRS... the one place they backup 300 times a day.

    June 17, 2014 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  2. Jolat

    This story should be the headline. Democrats, you should be outraged too. This makes Nixon look like a boy scout

    June 17, 2014 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  3. austin

    Even Bob Beckel, the liberal on Fox News, had to admit that this looks fishy to him. If this doesn't wake up America to what this corrupt administration is willing to do to cover-up their criminal acts then this Republic is lost. It is impossible that this was just now announced if the so-called crash happened 2-3 years ago. This new IRS Commissioner is going to be fried.

    June 17, 2014 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  4. JimboCombo

    Whoever is in charge of backups at the IRS better not be in charge of the UN-ACA or we might have to ask everyone to sign-up again. And to think the American people are that stupid..

    June 17, 2014 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  5. Dr. Jack

    The goat ate them!! Who else??

    June 17, 2014 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  6. John Maxwell

    Wouldn't emails be stored on the email host computers, regardless of weather or not they're on an outlook account?

    June 17, 2014 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  7. PharmGrl

    So now we know that Obama's IRS did in fact target right wing groups prior to 2012 election.
    Shameless cover up.

    June 17, 2014 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  8. David Marriott

    How convenient, that the took a play out of Richard Nixon's play book. ....Guilty as charged!

    June 17, 2014 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  9. Dumbo

    I guess the pirates have finally come out and raised the jolly roger over DC. The decades of posing as a luxury cruise-liner are now at an end.

    June 17, 2014 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  10. Scott

    You know if this where being investigated by IRS procedures, The burden of proof would be on Ms. Lerner to prove herself innocent. It would be nice to apply IRS rules to IRS officals.

    June 17, 2014 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  11. Purified Water

    Complete silence on this issue huh? How surprising.

    June 17, 2014 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  12. j.v.hodgson

    Issa is a spoilt Publicity seeking brat he uses a sub Peona to ensure he gets to ask questions first. What I cannot figure is why the two committees cannot sit down and agree questions for this guy and it's done until they have chance to review E-mails.... I suspect they are not going to yield anything as this fracas was a result of Citizens United which was decided way after 2009/2011.
    Another continuing waste of we the peoples money, last I heard Issa's committee spent $19m already.
    I have a simple solution via one question and one response:-
    After Scotus decided Citizens United how many applications for NEW 501c4 status by either Republican leaning organizations or Democratic leaning organizations made applications in the three years thereafter and how many have a) been approved b) rejected c) still pending for each of Republican leaning and Democrat leaning?
    The end result is that it is reality that matters.
    My guess is rotten bias will not show against either side but that Republican leaning applications far out stripped democrat leaning applications.... and that the majority are already approved ( both sides) and the storm in a teacup is over.

    June 17, 2014 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  13. Thomas

    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 is a republican .

    June 17, 2014 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  14. Daniel

    It didn't work for President Nixon and it shouldn't work for the IRS.
    But then I suppose "The IRS" does say theirs.

    June 17, 2014 03:18 am at 3:18 am |
  15. SixDegrees

    So, the government doesn't use mail servers, and doesn't require that its emails be retained for a decade? Seems very odd, since that's what they require of contractors who do business with the government. It's utterly bizarre that the only way to retrieve emails is from the desktop computer of the person who sent them.

    Of course, it's also utterly bizarre that the same person's hard drive would "crash" at precisely the moment when emails were requested...

    June 17, 2014 03:35 am at 3:35 am |
  16. smdahl

    "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." It only cost the US taxpayers $10million to hide Lerner's emails. Imagine how much it's costing us to keep Bergdahl away out of the public eye, or how much to keep the VA scandal off the front page, ETC.

    June 17, 2014 04:01 am at 4:01 am |
  17. Qurph

    Isn't ditching your hard drive SOP for criminals when they're indicted?

    June 17, 2014 04:05 am at 4:05 am |
  18. king

    well well i guest the irs is taking a page out of Mitt Romney's destruction of government files when he left the governor office in Massachusetts. hey that was a non controversy because the repubs voted for him in droves. now was this an intentionalcrash by learner at the IRS, that needs to be found out. if it wasn't well get a stepping. computers crash everyday, so that is not a rare thing.

    June 17, 2014 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  19. Tyler

    This has to be the most blatantly corrupt administration in history. The disgusting part is that the left, which I am a member of, has no outrage or even comment for the most part. This type of thing must be dealt with harshly.

    Obama has made blatant corruption the new normal.

    We should remember this when there's an R in office and we're the ones getting screwed over. We turned a blind eye to everything Obama and the Department of Justice did.

    June 17, 2014 04:22 am at 4:22 am |
  20. joedog

    It is Tuesday. CNN finally finds time to cover this? I guess they missed the memo from Headquarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    June 17, 2014 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Are they saying that IRS computers aren't backed up? Really?

    June 17, 2014 04:56 am at 4:56 am |
  22. Jake

    A hard-drive crash doesn't delete emails from the account – they are stored on the server. This is a pretty stupid attempt at a cover-up, but then it's Obama's IRS.

    June 17, 2014 05:16 am at 5:16 am |
  23. Jake

    A hard-drive crash doesn't delete emails from the account – they are stored on the server. This is a pretty lame attempt at a cover-up, but then it's Obama's IRS.

    June 17, 2014 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  24. Jim

    When Lerner sent e-mails, did she carry her computer to the recipient so he or she could view the e-mail, or did it go through a server? Because I'm thinking that just maybe the server traffic is backed up and they could look there. But what do I know? I've never been involved in a massive Rosemary Woods-style cover-up.

    June 17, 2014 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  25. David

    A hard-drive crash doesn't delete emails from the account – they are stored on the server. This is a pretty lame attempt at a cover-up, but then it's Obama's IRS.

    June 17, 2014 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
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