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. 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,

    June 17, 2014 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  2. bigdoglv

    I'm wondering if I told the same story to the IRS about my tax receipts during an audit if they would just say "that's OK, hard drives crash all the time." I think not.

    June 17, 2014 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  3. Robert

    I didn't file my taxes this year because I had a computer crash and lost all of my tax information. No, really; I swear. How did this happen, you say? ...I plead the 5th...

    June 17, 2014 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  4. Rod

    Worst presidency since Carter and the most corrupt since Nixon.

    June 17, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  5. Silence DoGood

    "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.”"
    If they don't subpoena them, how will the tin foil hat folks get spun up thinking no information indicates a crime.
    Conservative attack machines need to keep people excited, angry and scared if they are going to manipulate them.

    June 17, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  6. The REAL Truth...

    @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.
    It's easy to criticize when you have no understanding of how things work. To imply no-one stores emails on C: drives is utter nonsense. MANY, many folks store/archive emails on local drives... both private and corporate. Some company policies prevent users from doing that, some don't. Emails on servers are backed up..for a limited period of time. That timeframe is determined by their IT depts and other policy makers.. some keep them 3 months.. some 3 yrs. I do not know what the IRS backup policy is.. but it may be 3 yrs.. in which, they would not have them.

    June 17, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  7. James

    Part 1. Chapter 10. Section 3: Clause 1 of IRS policy.
    "Email messages are official documents and should reflect this perspective."

    all IRS emails are “official records”

    June 17, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  8. jorge washinsen

    they did something no one else has ever done,they made things disappear from a computer.

    June 17, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  9. forest gump

    4500, from his war, to find wmd, that he was continually told didn't exist, 3000 on 911, which he had info on but decided not to act, used that to take your right to privacy away, let people die during Katrina, while he passed laws allowing him to take your guns away, 50 died during 13 attacks on our embassy, consulates, and you absolute morons cry about 4 deaths, from an attack by foreigners on foreign land, genius I say, pure genius!

    June 17, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  10. jorge washinsen

    Even CNN can make things never happen.

    June 17, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  11. My 2 cents

    I'm an IT professional with over 15 years experience. Honestly, I am utterly shocked of ALL the agencies the IRS loses critical information. Are you effing kidding me? Does the IRS ever lose any critical documents if they're taking you to the cleaners? Here's the tech info for you. Hard drive data 90% of the time is recovereable, so long as the drive and data is not overwritten or burned. Most hard drives fail because of mechanical failure. The drive can be opened the mechanical parts can be replaced. Also, emails are stored on a Server and on the desktop. To an honest professional the IRS story sounds like total BS

    June 17, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  12. cward

    email is server or web based, not computer based, a hard drive crash wont eliminate emails

    June 17, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  13. kws11

    If this were 8 years ago, Bush's name would ALWAYS be included in the headline, with allegations of "dirty tricks" and "hit lists" being thrown around liberally (pun intended). The IRS is Executive Branch. Even if he didn't know, Obama is fully responsible for this. You want to demonize a governor because some of his people put out some traffic cones, but you won't even connect the dots on THIS!?!?!

    June 17, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  14. jorge washinsen

    No you just shut up whomever you don't like.

    June 17, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  15. James

    IRS Code (07-08-2011)
    Emails as Possible Federal Records

    The Federal Records Act applies to email records just as it does to records you create using other media. Emails are records when they are:

    1.Created or received in the transaction of agency business
    2.Appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function and activities, or
    3.Valuable because of the information they contain

    June 17, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  16. Carol Furnée

    Many hope that this investigation will also uncover Ms. Lerner's burying thousands of pages and recordings submitted with requests for investigation of the long-term violations of its exempt status by the coyly named Humane Society of the United States, aka H$U$, via excessive lobbying and political "contributions". Oh, did we mention that Ms. Lerner is an H$U$ member?

    June 17, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  17. Chris Kent

    Don't worry not a smiggin of wrong doing here......but we won't give emails or documents...then when there is a special House investigation committee....the emails are now suddenly lost.....Remember the head of the IRS said that the reason they can not provide her emails is the fact that the IRS (by law) has ALL correspondences archived on large servers and it would take too long to find them and so they could not meet the now they are gone.... so some one is was only her drive that crashed.....according to the White House.......either they are there archived like he said....or he lied....which means that they broke the law by not having them like most White House spin they keep changing the story as the facts don't support it.....

    June 17, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  18. cjb

    If the hard drive crashed in 2011, then why are they just now telling us that when those records have been subpoenaed for over a year? Everyone knows there are back up discs and you can retrieve emails from those she sent and received emails to and from.

    June 17, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  19. The REAL Truth...

    @DC Johnny – 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.
    The lack on knowledge displayed by the goober brigade is incredulous.. the IRS issue had nothing to do with unions.. It was about political organizations applying for tax exemption that they should not have qualified for, so they did not have to disclose their donor lists. When over 1,000 of the 1134 groups that applied (during the timeframe being addressed) were conservative and the IRS requires a 25% review of applications.. then logically FAR MORE Conservative groups will be "targeted" than any other variety. Duh! The ONLY group denied a 501c4 was a progressive group, and EVERY single one of those applications could have applied for the SAME tax exempt status as 547's.. but that would have required disclosing donors. IMHO every single applicant should have been denied.. it's all slush fund $$$

    June 17, 2014 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  20. forest gump

    Lets not forget she's also a registered Republican, or at least she was.

    June 17, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  21. JimboCombo

    This latest 'discovery' is a pathetic example if the lack of integrity filling many of our government positions. As others have pointed out, the missing emails are a blatant lie. And even if for some miraculous reason they didn't exist, they were knowingly and intentionally erased – either way accountability exists. This won't change unless someone goes to jail.

    June 17, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  22. Sam

    Emails do not sit on a hard drive, the sit on the server. Have you gotten a new Cell Phone and put in your email info, suddenly all your back emails pop up. Same if you use a Yahoo or Gmail Account. FINRA requires the managers to keep all emails on a secure server and have back ups.

    If the IRS can lose these emails how are they going to manage the NATIONAL DATA BASE being built by FHFA and CFPB?

    June 17, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  23. Kameron

    Nobody is buying this crap. Emails from work don't disappear. How convenient.

    June 17, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  24. Jon

    Anyone who's ever worked in IT knows they're lying. I guarantee these emails could be found, but somebody clearly doesn't want them to be.

    June 17, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  25. tv22

    Imagine a publicly traded company, under investigation by the SEC, saying that they didn't have emails from this person for the period in question! The CEO would go to jail.

    June 17, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
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