IRS faces volley of new scrutiny
June 16th, 2014
09:12 PM ET
6 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.

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. Robert

    Hard drives crash all the time. I'm an IT consultant and I replace more hard drives than any other part by a factor of ten, at least. I've got hundreds of dead hard drives (erased, BTW) sitting in my lab. That said, you'd think a division head would have a backup system in place.

    June 17, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  2. Patrick

    As many others have and will point out IRS records are not just on paper. They are digital. Those digital records are backed up usually more then once. Losing these records means all local and backup copies go away. That does not happen accidentally. Maybe if a meteor hit the IRS I think that would be noticed by a number of people.

    June 17, 2014 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  3. Brennerr

    'Prism' can locate an email containing an apple pie recipe Betty Jo sent Aunt Ruth but two years of criminal emails from the watchers themselves, are LOST.

    Most corrupt administration ever.
    Worst President ever.

    June 17, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  4. Hector Slagg

    Anyone want to send all big spending social programs back to the states where they are constitutional. Anyone want to get the federal government out of collecting and disbursing money in most cases. What we are seeing here is the last vestages
    of liberalisim running on empty. Some think a return to fiscal responsibility is a bad idea. So what is an 18 Trillion Dollar Federal debt with no end in sight? The problems in the country have snowballed starting with the best of intentions. We cannot pass the Buck forever.

    June 17, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  5. Luke

    Good- it's about time the IRS had someone looking over THEIR shoulder!

    June 17, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  6. Steve

    I am interested in the opinions of those who work in IT if a HD crash could occur such that no files are recoverable. I am also surprised that the decision of what is considered official and should be saved is left up to the employee. If someone did have criminal intent don't you think they would delete their email?

    June 17, 2014 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  7. Brennerr

    Notice that CNN always puts the most sensitive liberal fiascos in this format, with it's archaic, 1995 style comments section, or a video, with no comments.

    How thoughtful, I'm sure Dear Leader is pleased.

    June 17, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  8. Marty

    No need for Government Agency's to follow the rules or the law. They are above such things. Who was the last Government official that resigned because they thought they had not meet the expectations of the job?

    June 17, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  9. Mike D.

    IRS needs to go away. It is a ridiculous entity that is no more than the armed robbery wing of the Federal Reserve that has now been turned into a political weapon.

    June 17, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  10. Anonymous

    How convenient

    June 17, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  11. Susan

    If the GOP doesn't stop this relentless push for information the obama admin / irs are going to run out of ways to hide the truth.....

    June 17, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  12. Rock Und Rollah

    The corrupt mainstream media is too devoted to the Obama Administration to vigorously pursue allegations of political corruption at Obama's IRS.

    Contrast the IRS situation today with the way mainstream media handled Richard Nixon's corruption...there's simply no comparison.

    Where's Bob Woodward? There's a best-seller here, Bob...

    June 17, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  13. The REAL Truth...

    Watching the "Kelly file" twist, spin and lead the sheep last night – instead of addressing FACTS of the case – even tho' there are emails from 2011 between Lerner and her tech staff over the Hard drive crash.. then have some "expert" say that not being able to recover the HD was BS is incredulous. Standard procedures in ANY corporation or Govt office is when a hard drive crashes and the drive has "bad sectors" it is replaced and the old one trashed.. coming back 3 yrs later and inferring there was a coverup is typical of the "fair and balanced" propaganda outlet..
    Megyn is now a computer expert.. LOL

    June 17, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  14. DC Johnny

    How wonderfully naive.

    The 2010 elections are a historic massacre with the rise of the Tea Party principles standing up to a preposterously lawless left, and you feel that emails leading up to that election and in the year and a half after it are somehow "too early" to contain scandalous information?

    And while we're on the subject of naivety, your rhetoric about the IRS "doing its job" by investigating conservative organizations without lifting a finger to go after the abuses perpetrated by big unions and leftist groups is absurd. You love to harp on the "Progressive" groups targeted, without looking at the fact that 95% of the groups investigated and hindered were conservative.

    Again, how convenient.

    ---------

    Blake

    Computers die sometimes. If they can find proof that her computer crashed (a new one was ordered), then it seems plausible. 2009 to Mid 2011 doesn't seem to be the timeframe in which allegations of bias are said to take place anyways. It was during 2012 when the Presidential Campaign was on that many groups applied for the tax exempt status and were given extra scrutiny and thus delayed, which in their minds changed the course of the election (yeah right). Not to mention Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was decided in Jan 2010 which led to these groups. Why do they want 2009 emails? lol.

    Regardless, this whole "scandal" is nothing but the IRS actually doing a competent job defending citizen's tax burden from groups that are obviously very political, exploiting tax exempt status due to the. We found out that "Progressive" etc. in addition to "Tea Party" etc. was also key words in their scrutiny searches and the only group to be denied the tax exempt status was a liberal one.

    June 16, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |

    June 17, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  15. Harry Legg

    Another lie from the liar of the year administration... Arrest the liar and impeach the bigger liar

    June 17, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  16. mike

    Issa leaked security flaws in healthcare.gov. No he wants emails from 2011? It is about time they stood up to him.

    June 17, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  17. toddc

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

    June 17, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  18. 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 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 Administration...how 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 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  19. ldsmom02

    Hard drives crash, but no one's emails are on their hard drive, they are on the servers. These emails are there and no one wants to find them. This is the biggest cover-up I have ever seen.

    June 17, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  20. Bubba

    2 Years of email = 18 minutes of tape.

    June 17, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  21. Brennerr

    BLAKE, 100%, yes ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of groups using the terms, "Liberty" or "Tea Party"
    were SINGLED OUT. You're fooling nobody.

    June 17, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  22. The REAL Truth...

    @Guts – This is a worse excuse than, "The dog ate my homework." Please, all government emails are backed up onto a server.
    --------------------
    Reallty? Get a clue.. backup policies vary from company to company and sometimes dept to dept based on legal needs, etc. My company (40,000+) deletes backups after 1 yr .. so there's no legal issues.. Coming back 3 yrs after the event and expecting an email to exist is clearly ludicrous.

    June 17, 2014 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  23. Matty13

    Come on; her hard drive crashes and now there are two years worth of emails lost. Please! Her client computer had to have a server. Did the server crash too? Did the back up servers? I bet if it was a Republican computer they would find all those "lost" emails.

    June 17, 2014 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  24. 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...

    June 17, 2014 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  25. Spgfld Tom

    If anyone would like to share their disgust with the sudden "disappearance" of Lois Lerner's emails, the POTUS will be in New York tonight headlining a Super PAC fundraiser for Democratic midterm election candidates. Good to know that despite the crisis in Iraq and the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants pouring over our southern borders, that our President has time to play golf and be the star attraction at political fundraisers. Shameful!

    June 17, 2014 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
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