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. Brian

    This whole email thing is crazy. Set a bot loose to scour all the mailboxes for her name and some criteria. Email is from one person to another. Therefore, unless there was a concerted and coordinated effort to remove evidence, it is still out there. Although I have no issue with no giving tax exempt status to any political organization, the IRS has to apply the rules fairly or our government will break down quickly and be no better than Iraqs.

    June 29, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. Lou Orleman

    Anyone who has worked in IT operations knows darned well that there are probably myriads of backed up data files, incl. electronic mail servers, and probably kept in 1 or several off-premise sites. That is how data are re-created to their original state after computers "crash". Who is she trying to kid?

    June 29, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  3. insi10

    Barracuda lawyer vs bottom-feeding, mud-sucking right-wing carp Darrell Issa.

    This has the making of a Japanese horror film.

    June 29, 2014 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. nuclear mike

    She is a Federalist and does as she is told by her boss...the President!

    June 29, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  5. Bill

    Lerner takes the fifth so as not to potentially incriminate herself – and then her hard drive mysteriously crashes – and now this attorney is saying the Republicans are painting her in a bad light. I'll tell you what's going on. The Democrats DON'T WANT TO KNOW if anyone further up the chain is implicated. What a pathetic dereliction of duty by the left.

    June 29, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  6. Bill

    Trying telling the IRS your hard drive crashed when they tell you they need information. See how far THAT will get you. Innocent people do not invoke the fifth. Especially federal employees. This stinks to high heaven of a coverup. And there would only be one reason to do that – the trail goes up the food chain.

    June 29, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  7. JSB

    The IRS would NEVER EVER accept the excuses they are giving in an audit of a company or taxpayer. They MUST be held to at least the same standard that they are applying and in my mind should be held to a HIGHER standard. If a company came to them with this they would face significant fines and or jail time.... the IRS officials responsible should face no less.

    June 29, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  8. David

    You mean we should treat her completely unlike how the IRS, who treats EVERYONE as if they are a treasonous criminal first and not caring a lick about the circumstances that people find themselves in. So that is the group of people that
    are now looking for sympathy from an adoring public. Because after all the IRS isn't on a mind numbing and boggling
    power trip. They are simply misunderstood public servant doing a thankless job.

    June 29, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  9. Charlie

    i won't go that far...she has created her mess...and now with the emails disappearing...what a joke. i hope they drag her threw the coals and she goes bankrupt for stupidity. oh wait, she works for Mr. Obama....they all lie so i guess we can understand now.

    June 29, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  10. Garry Owen

    I would like to see all of those political (so called non profit) organizations taxed. I also want all religious organizations taxed.

    June 29, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  11. JRTerrier

    How does he know this? Only way is because she told him. Hence, he is disclosing client confidences, which means that he may be either violating the code of ethics or may be exposing himself to being questioned.

    June 29, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  12. Sam M

    Demon? Maybe. Liar and crook? YES!!!!!

    June 29, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. hkirwin


    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.

    Finally an honest Democrat. Do not get honest confused with intelligent. The sad thing is that she/he/it doesn't understand how wrong and dangerous this is in so many ways.

    June 29, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. Prorkba

    So, Lois "Low-life" Lerner is as innocent as a child. Poor wittle Wois, boo hoo. She's a liar and a cheat up to her scrawny neck in evil-doing. She took the 5th twice because even she knows she' s a criminal. She belongs in prison. And, it might not be long before we finally put her there.

    June 29, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  15. david

    Does the fifth amendment apply to the government is a question I think bares Exploring. I realize she is a person; but if acting on behalf of the govement during her involvement in a crime; not like her time off or anything of the sort. The constitution is an agreement that looks at govt. And people as two separate enitites and the rights of the people are the limits to the other party-govt.

    June 29, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  16. Patriot

    Republicans denigrating an innocent woman for purely political purposes? That comes as no surprise.

    June 29, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  17. Dr. Brown

    The same scrutiny to both sides, but the gop won't accept that, hence the circus, issa is mc, perfect . If issa would have asked if the left leaning groups were equally scrutinized, this would have been over, and that is exactly why he didn't. Isn't it odd, all these "scandals" and not one piece of evidence pointing to the whitehouse, but that won't stop the show, what else are they to do, they can't do their jobs, and conference proposals, they would rather push the Koch brothers agenda: on our dime, day in and day out.

    June 29, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  18. Judson

    Notice how they are changing the debate.....first it was "We never targeted any group!" Now they are starting to say "It was our job to target that group!"

    June 29, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  19. david

    Think of it this way; an anti establishment party is getting national favor, so the establishment uses its ability to completely quell the rebellion by not allowing them to compete with powers by targeting groups for unfare tax enforcement based on their name, patriot... Then the govt will loose evidence, and lie/withold the truth, while having an individual who is party of the govt, hide behind a protection reserved for the people. And of course the govt has had a program at the NSA which could be supenoed to show who she contacted; thus the lost documents found. The govt is treated differently in legal cases such as your ability to sue; thus they acknowledge that the govt and the people are not treated equally under the law. She was acting as the govt, her actions are not protected.

    June 29, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  20. neutral observer

    Vilified out of convenience??? Do you know how many lives have been destroyed by the IRS? Anything other than the most highest standards of accountability has to be applied to an organization with such power as the IRS. She ought to be frog marched out of her home for this. Losing emails alone ought to be a crime itself. I bet there are criminal ramifications if a company under IRS audit "lost" key emails.

    June 29, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  21. neutral observer

    One little known fact is that whenever anyone copies or deletes a files, a plethora of copies is generated in all sorts of wild formats and names. IT and other knowledgeable entities (NSA/CIA for sure, but probably even Microsoft) can recover these. Only a pea head politician who knows nothing of producing would be so naïve to believe otherwise.

    June 29, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  22. neutral observer

    People in the know understand that if any computer file (email) is ever deleted intentionally, a whole plethora of copies are generated in wild formats and names. If ever classified material is put on a machine, if it is deleted; requires complete degaussing of the machine because the copies are too many and intricate to clean. Therefore I find it hard to believe not one of these copies could be found.

    June 29, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  23. ja

    The GOP didn't pursue the weapons of mass destructin lie, therefore, they have lost all credibility, the biggest failure on behalf of both parties is the Iraq war, what the hell did we accomplish, absolutely nothing, waste lives on both sides, and no true ownership by Bush Cheney

    June 29, 2014 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  24. Tony D

    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?

    Don't be an idiot. Nobody cares about the 67,000 emails that were provided because they weren't relevant to the investigation. Emails on weekend plans, the weather, where to go to lunch, etc. Quantity means nothing, it is relevance that matters. Why do you clowns on the left ALWAYS throw this rubbish out and expect people to take you seriously?!

    June 29, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  25. Donna

    I am SHOCKED that Lois Lerner's attorney thinks she is innocent!!! This is unprecedented in the history of the country!! Defense attorneys almost always come out and admit their clients are guilty as charged, right? If she was truly innocent then she would have no problem whatsoever testifying under oath. Instead she took the 5th, the path of guilty people with something to hide.

    June 29, 2014 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
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