June 29th, 2014
10:28 AM ET
8 years ago

Lerner attorney: Client vilified by GOP out of convenience

(CNN) - The attorney for embattled former IRS official Lois Lerner said Sunday that Republicans are denigrating an innocent woman for purely political purposes.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, attorney William Taylor said it's "convenient" for the GOP to suggest that Lerner's computer crash, which destroyed documents sought by a House Committee, means something "nefarious" was going on.

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"This is election-year politics," Taylor said on "State of the Union" in his first television appearance on the controversy.

"It's convenient to have a demon that they can create and point to."

An investigation that was initially focused on whether the IRS unfairly targeted certain political groups became more convoluted last week when the agency announced the destruction of Lerner's e-mails - lost in an apparent hard drive crash.

Taylor said Lerner walked into her office one day and her computer screen was blue. Her hard drive had crashed.

"The truth is this was one of those things that happened," he said. "At the time she did everything she could to retrieve it. She reported it right away. And that's all there is to it."

Lerner, who ran the division that carried out the IRS targeting, resigned last year after the Treasury Department's inspector general found that employees working under her used "inappropriate" criteria to scrutinize certain groups, particularly those with conservative political names.

Koskinen: IRS troubles 'suspicious,' but no crime uncovered

"People who want to give money to elections and do so in a tax-free way have to submit themselves to the scrutiny of the IRS to be sure they are complying with the rules that limit political activity," Taylor said.

"If the IRS is not looking at political activity in the C4 applications, which is what this is, they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing. So it's like saying ‘They're examining us for political activity’ when that's the exact criteria they're submitting for their applications."

Since her resignation, Lerner has refused to testify at hearings, invoking her constitutional right not to do so – a move that stirred suspicion that she had something to hide.

Koskinen's donations raised questions as House GOP calls for more documents

Taylor said, however, the reason he advised his client to invoke her Fifth Amendment right was because “there was no pretense that this would be a fair process” in the investigation led by House Oversight chairman Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California.

Issa said Sunday, also in an exclusive interview to CNN, that Taylor "has said things that are not correct, or disingenuous or outright lied a number of times, it's been shown by e-mails."

"(An) attorney trying to get his client off the hook after flubbing and taking the fifth certainly will say and do a lot of things. But they're not held accountable," Issa said on "State of the Union."

Taylor wouldn’t respond specifically to Issa’s claim that he had lied, but again suggested Republicans are using his client has a political tool to gin up conservative enthusiasm ahead of the midterm elections.

Asked by Crowley if Lerner violated federal law requiring the agency to back up its communications, Taylor said his client “did exactly as she was required to do."

Another branch in the investigation, further inflaming Republican sentiment against Lerner, was the disclosure last week by Issa of e-mail exchanges showing that Lerner asked, while still on the job in 2012, whether the tax agency should investigate an issue involving Republican Sen. Charles Grassley.

E-mails: Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner queried Sen. Chuck Grassley invitation

The e-mails centered on an invitation from an unnamed group to Grassley to attend a seminar. What prompted Lerner's interest in December 2012 was whether travel expenses for Grassley's wife were included and whether that would violate income tax rules. However, it was not clear from the e-mails whether Lerner, who reached out to a co-worker, was inquiring about a potential audit of Grassley or whether she thought the IRS should look at the group. Her lawyer said she acted appropriately.

Taylor maintained his client’s innocence on all fronts, insisting that from the beginning “(Republicans’) only purpose to have her there is to vilify her.”

Lerner has received death threats against herself and her family. Taylor said she is not receiving protection.

“She has to go on living her life,” he said. “She's been made to be a villain in a way that's very, very unfair.”

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: Darrell Issa • IRS • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (153 Responses)
  1. Twiz

    If this same thing had happened to one of us, during an IRS investigation, they would be alleging all of the same things and probably threatening to put us in jail. The government is one of the worst offenders of prosecutorial over reach. Its more than a bit ironic that when they are finally forced to do the same to one of their own...they suddenly develop a conscience.

    June 29, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  2. Sara

    There are many companies, and even many federal employees, that can restore data from a crashed Hard Drive. Anyone who's anyone in IT knows this has been true for more than 30 years. No hard drive, in the history of mankind has every completely crashed beyond recovery. Perhaps the 'Windows' files became too corrupt to operate properly, but the data stored on that Hard Drive(s) is completely recoverable. I would state my entire family's life on it and so would anyone else in IT. Look it up, Democrat voters, look it up. This is a criminal cover-up beyond anything Nixon did.

    June 29, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. FKell


    "Hard drives crash, however, the only reason to destroy the hard drive after the crash was to destroy evidence. Even a fool knows this."

    Actually it is standard practice. After determining that the drive itself can not be recovered the only thing left to do "is" to destroy it. Should it have been kept for a time, probably to prove that it had crashed and the data unrecoverable. But that was probably not told to the IT department that this drive had data subject to an investigation, which means it simply went through the normal process which was destruction.

    June 29, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  4. karek40

    If she had not taken the 5th I might believe this attorney, she is a demon.

    June 29, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  5. ModerateDan

    The one bright side in all this is the next time one of us common folk loses our records the IRS won't exactly have a strong argument when they ask us to produce them.

    June 29, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  6. king

    When is issa going to look into the real scandal, which was why so many obvious political groups who were filing as socal groups twere not allowed to pay taxes and allow the american people to foot the bill. The IRS was over whelm with all tea party groups that popped out of no where, to stop the country's first african american president agenda.

    June 29, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  7. commonsense

    Not a villain? Invoking the 5th is the next best thing to an admission of guilt. If nothing wrong was done why is she hiding the truth?
    How would the IRS handle it if they were told while doing an audit. "Im sorry I lost those receipts but they really were here and this is what they said,
    And then when questioned further about it we invoked the 5th.
    They would freeze all of your assets and threaten to throw you in jail. How do they get away with using philosophy exactly opposite of the very premise of our entire Judicial System. Innocent until proven guilty.

    June 29, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. Dixon

    The "this is all the fault of a few rogue agents in our Cincinnati office" IRS has been dishonest and deceptive from the beginning of this horrific scandal unfolding. There has been absolutely no repentance or other evidence the IRS has changed or intends to change. To validly take the 5th Amendment Lerner had to have a good faith belief she risked criminal prosecution if she testified to the the truth. She chose to assert her 5th Amendment right to to answer questions. While that is insufficient to convict her in a criminal court it is sufficient to tell the world what she was actively involved in puts her at risk of criminal prosecution.

    June 29, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  9. Kris

    Like Obama and Lerner, this attorney would have been a good subject in Stalinist Russia

    June 29, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  10. alohagw

    She did in fact give taxpayer information tto other agencies, a felony, she did in fact target conservative groups, the IRS did and is attempting to destroy evidence. What is a defense attorney supposed to say, my client is guilty and I'm just trying to get her off?

    June 29, 2014 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  11. HenryMiller

    I guess it's this lawyer's job to lie for his client, but doesn't mean he's not lying.

    June 29, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  12. dean

    Only low info voters think e-mails are stored on your hard drive.

    June 29, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  13. rl

    Of course they are election year politics. The republicon/TBers are so afraid that we might elect another one of those (this time a woman) they are attacking early and often, kind of like their voting. If the tea groups were not planning on doing something illegal or unethical, it would not bother them. I have never be treated with anything but courtesy by the IRS, but then again I don't do anything illegal or unethical. This year out tax preparer even made a typo of a number on the form. They told us what the error was and it was corrected and we got a very polite letter stating that they were refunding the rest of what is due, and they were sorry (we actually made the mistake). But then of course we don't do anything illegal or unethical.

    June 29, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  14. Relictus

    While the GOP targeting women is not exactly a news flash, the IRS aren't known for being cuddly or friendly either. And the other posters are right. That data is retrievable. "Oops, I lost the data" is how children cover mistakes.

    "My dog ate my homework". Yeah, sure.

    June 29, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  15. scootfl78

    Republican politicians are inherently evil. They're raised to be bad and they do their best to succeed at being that way (while becoming rich as well). The best way to deal with Republican politicians is to get rid of them all. You would have more luck proving the existence of Bigfoot than being able to name one bill a Republican has brought forth to Congress in the last 33 years which has helped the middle class and/or working class.

    June 29, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  16. Jean

    To the best of my knowledge, no one has yet called anyone a demon. On the other hand, there is strong evidence that workers at the IRS have leveled the power of the Bureau to target conservative groups and republicans, apparently at the behest of the current administration. It is also apparent that the agency, again perhaps at the behest of the administration, is attempting to cover up any evidence of wrong doing. Even Nixon didn't go to the extremes of destroying evidence. At the very least, this controversy, along with several other outstanding controversies need to be investigated more vigorously. The Executive Branch has been engaged in a campaign of wresting more and more power away from the legislative branch. The constitution is supposed to guarantee power to the people. Not the president. The people deserve answers and should demand answers.

    June 29, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  17. joe

    Lerner's attorney has the hard copies. Her insurance. The entire White House goes to prison if they are found – "Period".

    June 29, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  18. @ king

    First African American President? Did you see his mom? He is just as white as black. BUT, he did use his minority status far too often for his convenience.

    June 29, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  19. LIV4E

    Is it me or am I the only person that realizes that your emails aren't stored on 'your' computer. They are on a separate mail server. I can throw my laptop in a lake and still get my emails.....

    June 29, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  20. Fred54

    No he's not a "demon", just a liar and a fraud..

    June 29, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  21. LIV4E

    The sad part is this is going to drag on and then when President Obama leaves office he will with out a doubt parden everyone involved. Bank on that!

    June 29, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  22. Steve

    It's sad this is a partisan issue, because this is a tool that will be used by the GOP just as much as the Democrats. They don't want to see such a large political weapon get shut down, because they want to use it as well. This scandal is rather obvious. Plead the 5th? Sure let me hold by breath for you now Mrs. Lerner. Hard drive crash? Better destroy the evidence even though corrupted files are easily retrievable off of a dead hard drive. Server back up of emails? Better cancel our contract with the off site server company 10 days after the investigation started. Nixon would of done a better job at hiding this.

    June 29, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  23. winstead12

    Just curious. How many of you commenters are actually attorneys? There are MANY reasons to invoke the Fifth, not all of them are because a client is guilty. Mr. Taylor is absolutely right to think that this is a GOP-led witch hunt. Perhaps this would be a different conversation if Ms. Lerner was testifying in front of a court, and not an oversight committee led by Issa. Further, did any of you listen to the clip? The email crash was long before the time that Issa is suggesting that there was wrongdoing. IT probably destroyed her hard drive because that was standard practice AT THE TIME OF THE CRASH. Finally, Issa's name games with Mr. Taylor and Ms. Lerner are just childish. Think what you will about Mr. Taylor, but he has an impressive record as an attorney and takes his ethical obligations very seriously.

    Source: I am an attorney.

    June 29, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  24. liberal disease

    just a fraud and a liar…isn't that enough?

    June 29, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  25. John

    Her attorney seems to miss the point that only Tea Party C4 applications were pulled for review by attorneys. How does he explain that?

    June 29, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
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