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. Gordo

    Why is this under politics? This is IT 101. "Destroying records". Im going to try this with the IRS and my taxes

    June 17, 2014 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  2. Jamal

    Big Surprise!! CNN not allowing open comments because you know it doesn't further their Agenda. Pathetitic excuse for journalism.

    June 17, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  3. mucklucky

    If the computer being used is government property, then by law, there are to be no personal information on it. In other words, every key typed on that computer should be saved as evidence... be it email, document, spreadsheet, ... anything!

    June 17, 2014 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  4. mucklucky

    There are responses...

    June 17, 2014 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  5. mucklucky

    If the computer being used is government property, there should be no personal emails or data on it.

    June 17, 2014 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  6. mucklucky

    Anything typed on a government computer is "official". Government computers are not to be used for personal use. I'm sure she signed a letter acknowledging that she was aware that nothing entered on that computer was to be considered personal.

    June 17, 2014 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  7. bill

    FBI can get them-but holder will continue this sick WH admin-no truth in em.

    June 17, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  8. I'm stupid

    How stupid does the IRS think we are . No one stores emails on a C: drive, they are on a server some where. How do they get to her hard drive .....a server. This is a ruse to hide this witch. If they get away with this kiss any respect to government goodbye

    June 17, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  9. 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

    This is a most amateurish cover up and if our government wants the IRS to have any credibility with Americans, they need to produce these emails.

    June 17, 2014 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  10. jim

    I am an independent voter. I don't agree with many of the investigations by congress about the Obama scandals. However, on this one I couldn't be more upset. Not telling the committee members is completely wrong. And altough there is no evidence I'm beginning to wonder if this scandal doesn't soon reach the White House.

    June 17, 2014 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  11. Jerry

    The existing system is definitely NOT working. We have too many loop holes and too many people and big corporations not paying their taxes. LET'S START THE BALL ROLLING TODAY!!

    June 17, 2014 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  12. Information technology expert

    There is a program that can retrieve emails even if the system has crashed.

    Does Lerner and the IRS think that most Americans just fell off a turnip truck and are unaware what is at work here?

    June 17, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  13. Kyle

    It's seems easy to devote time and money when it's tax payer money. The amount of dollars spent is irelevent.

    June 17, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  14. Terry

    There is more to this than we will probably ever know. What is disappointing is that the administration is usurping power from the legislative branch and then covering up their actions and not being held responsible.

    June 17, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  15. Disgusted with this

    From where I sit, this is obstruction of justice and is criminal -- LOCK HER UP.

    I mean, look at how hard the Dem Congress went after Roger Clemens – this is far worse. This is the IRS on steroids

    June 17, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  16. Larry

    The head of IT should be fired.

    June 17, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  17. tayllor1234

    We have a crime syndicate in the WH.

    June 17, 2014 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  18. bdby

    $250 Million dollars to find these emails? All they have to do is look on the tape backups that are located off site for disaster recovery purposes.


    June 17, 2014 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  19. Scott in Michigan

    How convenient. This administration cannot sink to new lows – it is hard to go past rock bottom. Nothing should surprise anybody.

    June 17, 2014 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  20. getajobhippies

    Do they really think we believe this? If all you had to do was delete the emails there would have been tons of investigations into wrong doing in companies that would have literally been stopped in their tracks. The IRS really thinks we are that dumb that we do not know they can recover these from the mainframe??? i am sure BHO will just tell us how mad he is after he read about this in the newspaper again.

    June 17, 2014 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  21. srcactus

    Nixon lost 18 days of telephone records and Obama improved to two years of email records. Is technology great or what?

    June 17, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  22. US Tax Payer

    So, IRS official hides/destroys information = do not do that again.

    US Tax Payer hides/destroys information = Jail time while we sort this mess out.

    Lock her up until you declare her not guilty!

    June 17, 2014 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  23. Rick McDaniel

    The IRS is absolutely guilty of corruption ordered by the WH. There is absolutely NO DOUBT!

    June 17, 2014 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  24. Bob Baker

    I do not believe it. Emails are cached on the email server, so even if you local harddrive crashed, they can be recovered. I also do not believe that email was "destroyed" when the harddrive crashed. Any good forensic examiner can recover data from a crashed drive.

    June 17, 2014 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  25. mike

    more lies by this administration. pathetic.

    June 17, 2014 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
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