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. JB

    Let me just put to bed the far left Rachel Maddow talking points.

    The IRS did target republican and democrat groups. Unfortunately when you partisan hypocrites spit out that information you forget to mention that 98% of the groups targeted were conservative. 2% progressive. So don't give me that bs about it being non partisan. They targeted conservatives without cause and a couple of liberal groups for specific issues.

    Don't think you are fooling people whe. Y claim progressive groups were targeted. That's like saying hitter targeted Protestants because he happened to jail one.

    June 17, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  2. Paul Cooper

    The solution is obvious. Subpoena all other federal agencies and their individual employees for all e-mail traffic for the time period in which her e-mails have magically disappeared.

    As a bonus, we'll probably learn about several other scandals and how they got spun up.

    June 17, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  3. forest gump

    Tony, doesn't that make you part of the 47%,that expect free healthcare, free food, free money, surely your a Democrat.

    June 17, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  4. Karen Smith

    The computer crashed with data from how many years? Bunch of bull! Check the Executive Assistant's computer. Executive's always allow their assistants access to their email/messages. But I am sure you are right – their computer crashed as well. All phony baloney – we know who gave the directive to delete everything!!!!

    June 17, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  5. Belter

    If you lost documentation the IRS wanted, you would not be treated kindly.

    June 17, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  6. forest gump

    So she's supposed to show her emails, but the Christie staff no, sounds right in gop ville anyways, go figure.

    June 17, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  7. kvan

    Thanks to the NSA under the Obama Administration all emails since 2009 can be accessed. It's illegal to destroy government records (even if you're a democrat).

    June 17, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  8. Guy`

    So CNN finally got word of this scandal? I've been scanning this website for a couple of days, looking for a story about this.

    And now that it's arrived, in the politics section, buried in 10pt font on the homepage just below a comedian's medical update, I see that it regurgitates IRS talking points and claims without any skepticism or curiosity.

    Lapdog City.

    June 17, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  9. bryan

    this is why there is a second amendment

    June 17, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  10. Myy

    No one died someone said.. So what difference does it make? Liberty dies when government lies... The ripple effect that occurs if citizens sit by and accept disgusting,corruption like this does indeed lead to death at the endof the day... The VA scandal is a prime example ofprecisely why citizens should not tolerate this corrupt behavior from our servants.

    June 17, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. TD

    If the Exchange server was configured to drop emails more than 2 years old, they don't have the backups. Every office I've worked in for the past 3 years (and I move around a lot) has had server purges at 3 months old. Saving to my harddrive/flashdrives has been my only option so I completely understand where they are coming from.

    Let's not forget the big picture here, the emails are only a concern if the IRS was illegally focusing on only Right wing groups, but we already have evidence they were targeting partisans on both sides in equal measure. Personally, I think none of these political groups should have exempt status since they just poison the airwaves and fatten the wallets of greed driven politicos. More taxes on organizaitons= less need for taxes on people.

    June 17, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. YeahBuddy

    Simple. Just find Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress. Throw her in jail until the e-mails are produced. Hopefully, you have a deal so she can be kept in the D.C. jail, and not some Federal golf course.

    June 17, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  13. JJ

    I believe that we're actually going to have to wait until Obama leaves the WH to actually find out the depths of his administration's failures and illegal deeds.
    Can you arrest a former President?

    June 17, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  14. KlintzCNN

    "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."

    And what of the back-ups of the email server? Did those get magically deleted when her hard drive crashed too?

    June 17, 2014 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  15. forest gump

    Skull smasher took a few good head blows, that.explains a lot .

    June 17, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. Pandamonius

    As suspicious as it is, anyone who has worked in a corporate environment in the last 10 years knows that this is definitely plausible. Many companies put a cap on how large a person's mail file can be, and if it exceeds that amount, either they don't get new mail, they archive off their old mail and save it to their local system, or the email admin group goes in and deletes everything older than a set amount.

    Even my company only within the past few years started up a system that archived old mail onto a storage server instead of making the employee keep it on their local system.

    In any case, it is very simple to investigate. Find out what system the IRS has in place for archiving email, and how long that system has been in place. If they rely on the users to keep a copy, then this is plausible. If they have a network storage solution in place, and it has been in place since 2009, then we know for a fact the IRS is hiding stuff

    June 17, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  17. Malory Archer

    If they were only targeting conservative groups, why did I as a liberal (with only the standard deduction no less!) have my tax returns "reviewed" TWICE in the last 4 years?

    June 17, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  18. forest gump

    Enlighten us logical, go slow, were Democrats.

    June 17, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  19. yu

    Smart move by Lerner, no evidence no case. If Nixon had trashed those tapes he would have finished his term.

    June 17, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  20. scarf

    Skull Smasher

    Wow, Obama is making Nixon look like a saint.
    You're obviously too young to remember Nixon......

    June 17, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  21. Crumudgathrope

    Emails are stored and saved on a server, not a users' workstation. email accounts with a legal requirement to save email are backed up continuously with no user interaction. Limits to the size of an email account have no bearing, directly or indirectly, with email even being read or downloaded. Email accounts are accessible from any configured computer and are not dependent on the users 'own' computer being operational. Subpoena the entire IT department, starting with the lowest techie they got and compare the responses as you go up the food chain.Time to prosecute these liars.

    June 17, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  22. D

    Well this is what happens when you put a Republican in charge of the IRS

    June 17, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  23. Cazo

    The fact they would try to make a ludicrous statement a server crash lost these says they are lying. Anyone that knows systems 101 knows that is almost impossible. I could stick a knife in the serve, pull out one of the hard drives and smash it with a hammer and the data would still be there. On top of that, a redundant back up is stored at a alternate location for fail safe.

    June 17, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  24. Jodo

    Is there a sentient being anywhere who believes this?

    This willful destruction of evidence is a criminal, impeachable offense. It is time to clean the White House and throw the liars out. Hope and Change turned into Lies and Deciet when nobody was looking

    June 17, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  25. Know Your Subject

    What a farce. The only reason for the totally unbelievable "her computer crashed" story is to give rabid true-believers some excuse to screech that the IRS turned over everything it could.

    June 17, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
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