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. larry

    One takes the 5th to not self incriminate. Which means any answer may incriminate her. And while one is innocent until proven guilty, the fact that if one pleads the fifth it's like blood in the water to a shark. It's there, it just has to be found. But, that's just her and unless the "crying" she did via email about the lost emails and hard drive crash is just smoke to help cover the coverup, she has done nothing illegal. I think she was in on the "dog ate my hard drive" form the beginning and the felonies go deep into the administration.

    June 29, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. RB

    Amazing how much people hate, just to have someone to hate about! Seems that 67,000 emails from her computer just isn't enough, after all doesn't everybody have much more than 67,000 emails in two years? And just what is wrong with the federal government checking records to make sure that all these new style tax dodgers (whoops, social non-profits) are playing by the rules! Seems to me that the people doing the most screaming rate the ones that are constantly complaining that the fed's are watching their personal taxes to closely, well don't you think they should lighten up on you and look at the big money people that aren't paying taxes? My beef with this new tax evasion system is that there is no reporting to no one or any government as to Where and Who is laundering this money to gain political power!!!

    June 29, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. YahRight

    Please, 'my client is innocent'. No one who pleads the 5th is innocent. The only one who thinks she is innocent is her attorney and those who lick the backside of ozero's backside.

    June 29, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. manicdrummer

    If you work for the IRS, you are evil. You are taught to be evil and to feel good about it.

    June 29, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Untrue. We have seen ENOUGH evidence to KNOW from the emails that we DO HAVE, that Lerner is guilty of criminal actions, and the only question now, is whether the trail leads directly to Obama, or just his henchmen.

    In my opinion, this fits an overall pattern of behavior in the regime that indicates it would lead directly to Obama.......thus the so called "lost" emails.......which is obviously a lie.

    June 29, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  6. curtegg

    I don't understand Issa's refusal to grant immunity. If he really wanted to get to the facts then she (Lerner) is a small fish and would have something to say or not.

    BTW: Read the book, "Obama' Enforcer" that lays out all the shenanigans that Eric Holder has done if you really want to get angry about the government. It amazes me that Obama's appointees in DOJ break the law and they get away with it.

    I'm just glad I invested wisely and retired early to purposely lower my taxes from over 30k/yr to practically nil ($100/this year) so I don't support the Federal or State governments anymore.

    June 29, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. JL

    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.

    Is it not "convenient" that emails from a critical time period sought after in an investigation have been obliterated??

    June 29, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. airjackie

    The Committee continued the fake scandal at direction of Grand Theft Auto Rep. Issa. Well the committed was presented with the law the employees were following that was signed 1952 and never changed. 60 years of a law and so much has changed but the law is the law. Now had the IRS employees not followed that law all would be prosecuted. Well Rep. Issa said he was not interested in the facts or proof but wanted to tie Obama to IRS. The Bush appointee was ignored as he was the Commissioner until 2012 when he resigned when Romney lost. The new Obama appointee is now asked to defend actions of the former Commissioner. GOP realize Americans don't read and likely would never know these employees were following a law signed in 1952. But it works and assures Congress does no work for the people on Jobs. Now we have several fake scandals to waste money and Boehner is looking to sue the President and even start Impeachment hearings. A Tea Party Senator explained we can Impeach Obama for War Crimes/Torture done in 2002-2008 because he is the President now. yes people elected idiots and criminals so this is what we get.

    June 29, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  9. David

    Demon? Perhaps giving her too much credit. Evil....I can make that argument

    June 29, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. Guest

    The truth of what was really happening is probably faaaaaar less than the GOP is making it out to be, but crashing hard drives and deliberate obstruction of testimony is making it sound a lot worse than it needs to be. Of course it's election year politics, everything in Washington is at least tangentially related to an upcoming election but the argument that everything here has been 100% above-board at the IRS doesn't pass the sniff test and to pretend that Democrats wouldn't do the same thing if a Republican were the President is absurd on its face.

    June 29, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  11. kws11

    One hard drive crash on a key machine during a critical 6 month window is pretty hard to swallow, but SEVEN, all on key machines, in the SAME 6 month window? If you really believe that, you should take ALL YOUR MONEY and by lottery tickets right now. I don't care what political party you support, having the IRS harass ANYONE due to their political affiliation should be considered TREASON. It is a horrible precedent to allow something like this to go unpunished, considering the public exposure of something so undeniable. This attorney is full of poop, and he knows it. His client is vilified because she is a villain!

    June 29, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  12. Rick McDaniel

    The trial has enough emails to prove without a doubt, that Lerner is guilty of criminal activity, and the only question left, is whether the trail leads directly to Obama, or his henchmen. Cummings has also been a party to the coverup, and we have the emails that prove that, as well.

    June 29, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  13. eric

    There is no party line. The IRS has a culture of absolute power.

    June 29, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    “When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”

    ― John Basil Barnhill

    June 29, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. Coinvinced

    Innocent women do not plead the fifth.

    June 29, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. Rollo Tomasi

    Republicans doing for political purposes? How you mean like how she did when she targeted certain political groups?

    June 29, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  17. oldguy68

    A lawyer defending his client. I'm so relieved the truth is finally getting out. That 5th amendment. Don't leave home without it

    June 29, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  18. Nodack

    The second a Republican is elected President all this anti government BS from the right stops. The second a Republican is elected President the right won't care about deficits anymore. The second a Republican is elected all the filibustering stops. The second a Republican is elected President FOX News switches from offense to defense. Instead of 24/7 anti Obama coverage it turns to 24/7 pro Republican coverage defending Republicans from those mean Democrats who would dare to question their government.

    June 29, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    "Blue screen of death" as it's known. Hers was a Windows machine – notorious for this kind of behavior.

    June 29, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  20. hkirwin



    "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.

    Actually its isn't. Not for a publicly held company or a Government enity, especially the IRS. Try using my hard drive crashed an I destroyed the hard drive in an IRS audit.

    June 29, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  21. itscion

    Lerner is hiding information. Stop trying to chalk every bad thing done in DC up to election tactics. We're sick of it.

    June 29, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @Steve: "This scandal is rather obvious. Plead the 5th? Sure let me hold by breath for you now Mrs. Lerner."

    Pleading the 5th doesn't mean you are guilty; it means you are invoking your C O N S T I T U T I O N A L rights.

    "Hard drive crash? Better destroy the evidence even though corrupted files are easily retrievable off of a dead hard drive."
    So, you were there and you are an IT expert? Files can't always be restored – just ask anyone who's lost all their family photos in a hard drive crash.

    "Server back up of emails? Better cancel our contract with the off site server company 10 days after the investigation started."
    The contract was cancelled two months after the investigation started – NOT 10 days. BTW, check out the website of Sonasoft, the company whose contract the IRS cancelled. The summary of Sonasoft's press release reads: Sonasoft Corp. clarifies its position regarding Sonasoft’s email archiving products and the IRS. Sonasoft does NOT have IRS email. Sonasoft NEVER had access to IRS email.

    "Nixon would of done a better job at hiding this."

    No comparison, none, nada, zip. Instead of spending your time and our taxpayer dollars on nontroversies, why don't you folks motivate people to contribute to your candidate by having them actually DO SOMETHING FOR THE COUNTRY.

    June 29, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  23. 1776usa2016

    I wouldn't testify either before one of Issa's witchhunts. Ispecially if I had to explain a hard drive crash 5,000 times to these id iots.

    These GOP/TEA idi ots go grasping after straws; they distort the facts; they cherrypick their facts; and then they try and create a dialogue around all this in an attempt to hurt the President.

    The John Birchers, aka libertarian-anarchists, are 100% behind all the racism and obstructionism. And they are completely driving the entire platform within the GOP.


    June 29, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. frontgatee

    Lerner is a HERO as far as most people are concerned , she went after tea baggers and that's a good thing. You go girl.

    June 29, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  25. Robert N. constant

    Tax exempt status is not granted to organizations that are political rather than charitable. It was normal and logical for the IRS to investigate tax exempt status from organizations using the words "Tea Party". This is indeed, "A tempest in a tea pot" floated out there by Republican campaign strategists in the hope that if they throw enough mud some of it will stick. This should be obvious to all but those poor water heads who believe what they hear on Republican Hate Radio.

    June 29, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
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