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. Dora Bucklew

    18 minutes of tape went missing with Nixon and the media made sure Americans were informed and justice was served. 2 years of emails suddenly disappear and the story is buried deep in coverage. I just watched an hour of your TV show and not one word of IRS scandal. No wonder no one watches your circus of coverage- You lost your integrity as News coverage and reporting truth. Media should be on the American People's side, not one group or person. But go ahead, rise and fall as the President does. People will remember him like they remember you- useless and harmful to America.

    June 17, 2014 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  2. Ricke1949

    Nixonian. The WH was involved at the highest level.

    June 17, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  3. foxghostwriter

    Smart folks would have had the backups on server. Relying on users to have reliable back up is a recipe for trouble.

    June 17, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  4. quidestveritas

    each individual employee is responsible for manually dumping their emails to a server or external hard drive? the IRS doesn't have a backup server? this is completely unbelievable.

    June 17, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  5. Rob

    Does anyone really believe the IRS. Sounds to convenient to be true.

    June 17, 2014 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  6. Jj

    Mmm hmm. Yea. Sure. My dog ate my homework too. Truely Unbelievable

    June 17, 2014 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  7. adsas

    How do you just "lose" emails? Any other corporation who pulls that would be cited with a contempt charge.

    June 17, 2014 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  8. FedUp

    So I am being audited and asked to provide docs from 2003 till now....2003!!! I am REQUIRED "by Law" to produce the docs no matter what or face additional penalties,

    June 17, 2014 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  9. tom

    Most times, email is sent to the "email" server on site. That server sends a copy of all emails to another "storage" area. That storage "area" which stores "emails" is then backed up to another place. So you have the "server" which should store all emails, then the backup of that server. So this does not make sense that a workstation failure causes email to be lost.

    If in fact the "local" workstations "archive" emails then something is really messed up with the governments IT.

    You have NSA which seems to be able to store everything. Maybe the NSA should work with the IRS to at least get a good backup system going.

    June 17, 2014 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  10. Eric

    As a SLC for a federal agency, I can attest all workstations are monitored and backed up to a server, which is backed up on tape. ....Doh!

    June 17, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  11. Furball

    Two years of e-mails were stored on her computer and her hard drive died. That is 100% legitimate. The real question is, why weren't any of the e-mails stored on their network drive? All of those e-mails had to pass their their e-mail server (e.g., Exchange). Those could easily have been backed up. Many companies make amazing e-mail archiving tools that make searching easy (guarantee finding all e-mails to a specific topic within 5 business days corporate wide search). need to store the same forwarded message separately...the software will store one copy of the letter, and meta-data each time it was forwarded, modified, etc.

    June 17, 2014 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  12. Bill in VA

    There ought to be a lot of scrutiny. A year after the story breaks we "learn" Lerner's hard drive crashed? Why didn't they just say that a year ago? Answer is obvious. Covering something up. Maybe not even what the originial issue was, but something. In this day and age with back ups, multiple servers, etc., those e-mails are there somewhere. Maybe on recipient back up servers, but somewhere.

    June 17, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  13. Electorate Elite

    No IT professional anywhere in the world would be willing to testify under oath that a PC hard drive crash would delete select emails from an organizations email servers, be they Exchange, Lotus or whatever. Further it would certainly not delete them from the back up servers or the off site archived backups. Taking it even further, it wouldn't delete them from the servers and backups of the recipients organizations or their backed up archives. Now we can see who the true brainless sheep are as they come out and feebly attempt to defend what is obviously a series of felonies being perpetrated to protect some very high level officials in this high up? logic and reason and an ounce of cognitive ability will give anyone with an IQ over 70 that answer. here is a hint for the bleating sheep. "Not a smidgeon..."

    June 17, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  14. Jerry

    Seems the lying just won't end with these people---vote them all out 2016

    June 17, 2014 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  15. Brian

    I'll bet the two years of emails are sitting in the same place as the 6 million emails that went "missing" during the time leading up to the Iraq War. Yeah, ouch that stings doesn't it?

    June 17, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  16. old age voter

    They are lying thru their teeth; there are servers that have the data backed up and everyone knows it. It’s time to subpoena these people and start putting them in jail until the information is released.

    June 17, 2014 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  17. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Well there you have it proof positive of a cover-up of a cover-up.
    🐘🐘🐘 in strawberry patches!!! Hey I spotted one!!


    June 17, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  18. Cody

    Wake up, America - are you hearing this BS? You are being lied to.

    June 17, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  19. Anonymous

    ask the nsa for the emails

    June 17, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  20. jpmichigan

    If average Joe American hard drive crashed, the government would find a way to retrieve info on that hard drive. This is why the American people do not trust this administration, for all the spin an cover ups it easily provides.

    June 17, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  21. MacLorry

    It's time to appoint a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of this. The IRS is a law enforcement agency and if it's allowed to be used against political opponents then the U.S. has truly become a banana republic.

    June 17, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  22. Anonymous

    OK, So now we are being led to believe that there is no backup for the IRS' email server. Yes we are going to be told that each individual at IRS decides what is to be backed up and what is to be discarded from their email. If this is true the IRS can not be truly "Overseen" by any other department or agency. Really? Can you say NSA?

    June 17, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  23. Open2most

    She pleads the fifth. Her hard drive crashes. She retires. ... At least Nixon resigned. And her missing 18 1/2 minutes of tape will be found. What goes around, comes around.

    June 17, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  24. DC Johnny

    This administration protects its own from top to bottom. Everything is analyzed based on just how long it will take for the population or justice system to catch up to them.

    Pass Obamacare, and by the time the 2010 elections come around, it will be too late to undo. Illegally delay the most painful parts of the legislation until after the 2012 general and 2014 midterm elections and it will be to late for the people to vote their approval.

    Hide emails, silence whistleblowers, and delay testimony and eventually the media will help the people become tired of the Benghazi coverup, the IRS scandal, and countless other examples.

    It's abhorrent.

    June 17, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  25. Mark

    I know I'm cynical about government and politics, but a computer crash? Uh huh. How ... convenient ...

    June 17, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
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