June 16th, 2014
03:19 PM ET
8 years ago

White House: Lerner emails lost in computer crash

(CNN) – A top White House official blamed a computer crash for the disappearance of emails from embattled former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner, echoing the explanation the agency gave Congress last week for the two years' worth of missing subpoenaed correspondence.

"I think it's entirely reasonable. And it's fact," incoming White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One Monday.

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"You've never heard of a computer crashing before?" he asked.

After the IRS informed Congress of the missing emails last Friday, Republican lawmakers have accused the White House of a cover-up.

Earnest called those accusations "not at all surprising and not particularly believable," adding 67,000 emails "sent by or received by" Lerner have been offered to Congress.

Lerner, the former director of the IRS exempt organizations division, has invoked her constitutional right not to testify before Congressional committees investigating the agency's targeting of tea party and other interest-specific groups.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa subpoenaed her emails in an attempt to learn whether other agencies were involved in the targeting of those organizations.

The California Republican told CBS on Monday that Lerner's explanation for the missing emails is "just not believable."

"We have enough evidence of her wrongdoing that we want to review every email that she has sent or received. That's reasonable to do when you have someone who takes the fifth," he said.

"This is not about what you turn over. It is all about what you don't turn over."

Issa previously called the crash "convenient" for the Obama administration, adding that the supposed loss of Lerner's documents damages the credibility of claims that the IRS is complying with congressional requests to seek the truth.

In a statement, the IRS said that Lerner tried to recover her emails, which dated from January 2009 to April 2011, after her hard drive broke down but was unable to do so. The agency said it then worked backward to recover the missing emails from recipients of the messages.

CNN's Sara Fischer contributed to this report.

Filed under: Darrell Issa • IRS • Josh Earnest
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Eagle0841

    "Not a smidgen of IRS corruption"-Barack H Obama- Liar in Chief

    June 16, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  2. 1108

    Internal e-mail servers generally only save e-mails for at most a couple of years. Severs will recycle the storage space, so given a relatively short period of time the data is pretty much gone from the server. But the e-mails do get copied to your hard drive when you open them and even if you delete the e-mail it's unlikely that you overwrote the space... so experts should be able to recover the data.

    But if the harddrive crashes and the e-mails are old enough (in this case they're talking about 3-5 years ago)... then you probably don't have that data anymore. And in general, an organization that deals with private data (like tax records) will likely purge the e-mail records from their servers quicker rather then slower... perhaps only keeping 3-6 months worth of data on the servers.

    Again... I don't buy that her harddrive died. But if it did, their story would be completely legitimate.

    Typically when systems are "purged" the data is not just throw away. It is backup up to disk or tape and archived. There are legal requirements on how long that data needs to retained. I can't speak for the IRS, but medical, insurance and financial are required by law to retain the records for 7 years.

    June 16, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. weebitwidd11e

    Rudy NYC

    Scott Stams

    Why not just ask the NSA for their copies of the emails?
    Sorry, Scottie, but Snowden stole those copies.

    ROFLMBO! that made my day thank you!

    June 16, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "Actually, it's a LOT funnier to watch you guys do everything you can to defend the IRS. It's the freakin IRS!!! "

    And the evidence already shows they "targeted" progressive groups too, so what's your point? Right there is enough to obviate the need for further "investigation" and disprove the accusations of some sort of grand conspiracy political crackdown on opposition. But oh yeah, you live in a delusion in which we are supposed to pee our pants over anything the IRS does to enforce the laws and regulations it operates under because something something taxes tea party waaaah waaaaah no likey gov't!!!! The rules say they're not supposed to be engaged in political activity if they want 501(c)(4) status and yet they gave their organizations blatantly political names and purpose descriptions in their articles of organization. That's not supposed to raise red flags? And of course that's going to look like "politicized" targeting if anyone bothers to enforce it against any group, especially if you're an undereducated GOP rural baser with a chip on your shoulder. It's all a joke. They justify continuing to hunt for witches with circular logic: "our accusations are true and the only reason that we haven't found anything to prove them is because there's a cover up." So yes...YAWN. YAWN YAWN YAWNY YAWN YAWN YAWN.

    "Perhaps a some point you will realize it's not about "scoring points" and your side (dems) winning."

    Perhaps some day you'll realize that dems and liberals haven't been the ones trying to score points, have been trying to get things done and have been forced to spend an inordinate amount of time defending themselves from a grossly radicalized and extremist GOP/Teatrolls faction that swore from Day 1 to do nothing but obstruct and attempt to destroy this POTUS and his administration, bring gov't to a halt and stick it to the people who voted for him. This entire nontroversy over the IRS is about the GOP/Teatrolls trying to score points and destroy him. Same with Plan B(enghazi). Same with Fast and Furious and the rest of it. None of it resulted in proof or impeachment as they wanted, so they've taken the next best thing: political point scoring, destroying public trust in our gov't, trying to ruin him and his record, obstruction, preventing progress, manufacturing crises, hostage games, shutdown games (and yes, they're gearing up to try to force another one by trying to defund the EPA's new regulations in the next budget bill), and general shenanigans. It's what the GOP does when faced with a WH they don't control. They're like freekin 5 year olds on the playground crying and screaming because someone took their ball away.

    June 16, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. Mary

    Since this involves the IRS and is a scandal just as horrific as is the VA, it will be almost impossible to get the truth. Fine, but the politicians need to start telling the American voters the truth. If they fail, and they always seem to get caught with their pants down, the voters can't trust them to lead our country. Remember that the next time you vote!

    June 16, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  6. tony

    talk to the dogs, i dont think they believe either. tell the whitehiuse fibd diff thing to say

    June 16, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    That's simply another WH lie........we all know the IRS backs up on a main frame nightly.

    June 16, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  8. Not Buying It

    Seriously? Obama and his cronies need to be thrown out of power no matter what it takes. By any means necessary.
    I'm ashamed of the people who voted for him.

    June 16, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  9. Ol' Yeller

    So, let me get this straight... Lois Lermer, some low level beuracrat, supposedly allowed or directed her people to look into any groups with names which may indicate they were politically affiliated with a party, be it Dem or republicant, to see if they were claiming tax exempt status on a law the IRS hadn't enforced as written in several decades and the only group who did not get to claim the status was actually a Democratic group (NO rightie group actually lost their filing status) and this lady needs to go to jail or be stoned or something for taking her constiitutionally protected 5th Amendment rights.... BUT, a high level Governor who is being investigated for malfeance of a similar nature... targetting people for their political affiliation AND imposing harsh and possibly deadly retribution on innocent citizens he'd sworn to protect and serve is nothing but a witch hunt and needs to be stopped now because a complete investigation was completed by his handpicked lawyers paid for with taxpayer money who found nothing wrong... move along.

    Brings to mind a post I read a few minutes ago... "Perhaps a some point you will realize it's not about "scoring points" and your side (dems) winning. Some day you will realize that it's about "us" – as in the American public and not dems vs repubs."

    Ah.... the sweet, sweet smell of total unabridged hypocracy... gotta love it!

    June 16, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
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