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. DH

    What ever did or didn't happen at the IRS, 7,000 Americans did DIE because Cheney lied. No one died because the IRS investigated liberal and tea party groups to make sure they were truly tax-exempt 501's and guess what some lied.

    June 17, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  2. Tony

    Where is my refund? I e-filed on Feb 22 and they owe me over $3000. They sent me a letter in March informing me that they were reviewing my income, not as an audit but as a confirmation. Most of that is from social security and a pension. They said this would be resolved by May 22. I am still waiting. The IRS help desk apologized and said there are millions of people like me. I am still waiting.

    June 17, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  3. LogicalSC

    Dishonest people do dishonest things.

    If the Obama administration has shown us nothing, it is that Barack Obama, the Democrats and THEIR SUPPORTERS
    are fundamentally dishonest people.

    June 17, 2014 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  4. forest gump

    Kws, started under a Republican, overseen by a Republican, and she's a Republican, just don't get it do you, they blame the Democrats for every little dirty trick they pull. Just drink up they'll take good care of you.

    June 17, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  5. ztarbod

    This is a matter of "we aren't going to provide the e-mails and there is nothing anyone can do to make us". The IRS and Obama administration do not feel they are accountable to anyone. This is an in your face, nothing you can do about it.

    June 17, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  6. Diogenes

    What if Lois Lerner was using a personal e-mail account, as government employees have been known to do, as opposed to her official government e-mail account to communicate with individuals at other agencies or the White House? Then "crashing" her computer may make those e-mails unrecoverable as they would likely not be imaged, backed up or archived like those sent from a official government e-mail account.

    June 17, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  7. JayTea

    Emails dont reside on the computer they reside on the server with everyone they are searching that she corrisponded with. So this is total BS.

    June 17, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  8. Jim Jimson

    Let's remove some of the FUD the IRS is trying to lay here. I assume Exchange is the email server program.
    Emails are initially held on the server after being created on a PC. That PC may or may not be connected to the server at the time it creates the email. As soon as it connects to the server the two synchronize and the email is stored on the server and can be sent to others.
    Users are norm ally allocated a fixed amount to storage on the server for 'their' emails. Once this is used up all additional emails that you want to store personally are kept in an offline folder on your PC. This can be and often is deleted.
    However, all server message stores are backed up and all emails are therefore held centrally. There are only a couple of ways these backups can be deleted – machine malfunction or deliberate action by the server admins. Backups themselves are usually also duplicated. User-held emails are nothing to do with server-held versions which remain the master record.
    For any organization to try to claim that server backups are not there is farcical.
    Equally, for an organization to claim that it is up to individuals to determine the need to retain copies of emails long term is unreal – especially in government. Email retention policies are determined at C level not worker level.
    If the IRS really did allow users to be hte sole arbiters of which emails were retained indefinitely their entire IT and C suite leadership needs to be fired asap,
    This whole episode stinks and reveals the depths of ineptitude being plumbed by government with our tax dollars.

    June 17, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  9. KBNJ

    The IRS doesn't back up emails on multiple servers?!?
    Yeah, right. Got it.

    Oh, and CNN, THIS should be headline news, not buried in 'politics'.
    But it makes your messiah look bad, so bury it, right?

    June 17, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  10. 1776usa2016

    They recovered all of Lerner's email from the recipient's so the hard drive crash didn't lose them.


    June 17, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  11. Gunderson

    They should have left President Nixon alone when they had the chance. Too late now. The Cat is out of the Bag. The dogs are loose and on the hunt! You think those Blood hounds are going to stop now! Not a chance! Don't you just like big Government! The Conservatives were right but you didn't listen! Geronimo !!!

    June 17, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  12. Laughing Monkey

    "The Senate report, which was nearly final, is now delayed indefinitely as the committee tries to determine what material is still missing."

    Or at least delayed beyond the midterm elections this November coincidentally saving a certain president from further embarrassment over his administration and well, his lack of honesty.

    June 17, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  13. LogicalSC

    " The lack on knowledge displayed by the goober brigade..."

    How could you possibly KNOW that?

    Lois Lerner took the 5th for a reason, you goober, and now the IRS claims that they lost her documentation..

    You really need to stop listening to KNOWN LIARS who have been caught lying repeatedly to cover for their actions.

    Why are you LYING?

    June 17, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  14. Skull Smasher

    Wow, Obama is making Nixon look like a saint.

    June 17, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  15. KBNJ

    @theREAL Truth: IRS only stores emails from their top people 3 years?!?! And after that depends upon them keeping them on their hard drive?!?! Get real, dude. Maybe in a small company, but not a massive federal bureaucracy tasked with collecting tax dollars. And don't expect me to believe you actually think that, I wasn't born yesterday.

    June 17, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  16. I'm not a crook

    How many minutes of the tape did Rosemary Woods erase?

    June 17, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  17. Anonymous

    "You really need to stop listening to KNOWN LIARS who have been caught lying repeatedly to cover for their actions."

    Says the FOX addicted political rabble-rouser.

    June 17, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  18. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....


    Elephants in strawberry patches!!!!


    June 17, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  19. Anonymous

    So the IRS is saying they don't keep any back-ups of what is one on their higher-up agent's computers and their e-mail records don't go back three years? They can go back and prosecute people who didn't file their taxes years ago and such cases may takes years to go through the courts, yet they are trying to claim they don't have back-up records from THREE YEARS AGO? Do they seriously expect anyone to believe this? If they aren't keeping back-ups of such important info then the people running and overseeing the IRS all need to be fired!!!

    June 17, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  20. Silence DoGood

    They should have left President Nixon alone when they had the chance. Too late now. The Cat is out of the Bag. The dogs are loose and on the hunt! You think those Blood hounds are going to stop now! Not a chance! Don't you just like big Government! The Conservatives were right but you didn't listen! Geronimo !!!
    That is a new conspiracy theory on me. So the IRS scandal is a result of people investigating Nixon.
    ( this space is reserved for stunned silence )

    June 17, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  21. KBNJ

    $10Million and 250 people to search for emails!?!
    Right. Got it.

    In other words, they wiped the servers so we can't see ALL the emails, and now they're wasting our money searching all the people's computers they THINK (wink-wink) she communicated with. Any chance they'll 'miss' a few? I'd say about 100%.

    June 17, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  22. Leeman

    And they deserve every bit of scrutiny. Its reminds me of that movie the Big Easy where they put a huge magnet next to a video with incriminating evidence in order to erase it. This charade is only going to make things worse. The Obama administration will stoop to any level to achieve their goals and its starting to get scary.

    June 17, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  23. grumpy0ldman

    I love all the "IT experts" putting in their 2 cents worth and in most cases that is all it's worth. I can easily see how this happened. Up until recently, when disk storage got real cheap, we had strict limits on email storage on the Exchange servers too. The only way to save old emails was to move them off the server and into a pst file on the local hard drive. The tech savvy among us kept a backup of that pst file on removable storage. The managers however...

    June 17, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  24. TM

    Please, don't get the GOP started on a another fake scandal.

    June 17, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  25. Wowsers!

    Try telling the IRS that you don't have a piece of paper to prove something .... you'll be dead meat in hours.

    June 17, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
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