Tens of thousands of Lerner emails have been found by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). This past Friday, TIGTA announced to congressional staffers that they were located “among hundreds of “disaster recovery tapes” that were used to back up the IRS email system.”, and that it “took them several weeks and some forensic effort to get these emails off these tapes”. TIGTA has estimated it could contain nearly 30,000 emails.
The emails date back to 2009 – 2011, an important time frame for the IRS scandal. This covers specifically the era during which Lois Lerner, as head of the IRS exempt-organizations division, engaged in targeting of conservative and Tea Party organizations which sought tax-exempt status ahead of the 2012 Presidential elections. Lerner claimed her computer crashed in Spring 2011, and the IRS declared those emails “lost”.
Washington Examiner noted that this past June, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before Congress that the disaster recovery tapes — the ones recovered — only hold data for about six months, and “even if the IRS had sought the emails within the six-month period, it would have been a complicated and difficult process to produce them from the tapes.”
On the contrary, TIGTA has examined 744 tapes so far, and they are not finished, but have found an estimated 250 emails on the various tapes. Besides the estimated 30,000 of Lerner’s emails, TIGTA surmised that it is likely more missing emails will be recovered from the slew of other IRS workers who also experienced computer crashes.
The IRS issued a statement as a response to the TIGTA find, stating, “the IRS welcomes TIGTA’s independent review and expert forensic analysis. Commissioner Koskinen has said for some time he would be pleased if additional Lois Lerner emails from this time frame could be found.”
This is a ridiculous statement, as it was revealed just a couple of weeks ago from court documents pertaining to an IRS lawsuit over the matter, that the IRS hadn’t even bothered to look for the emails. In the document, the IRS wrote that they have not searched IRS servers because “the servers would not result in the recovery of any information.” The IRS further claimed no search was performed on the back-up tapes, because there was “no reason to believe that the tapes are a potential source of recovering” any lost emails.
Rep. Darrell Issa, who is overseeing the process, spoke about the IRS’s behavior upon hearing of the TIGTA find. “This discovery also underscores the lack of cooperation Congress has received from the IRS. The agency first failed to disclose the loss to Congress and then tried to declare Lerner’s emails gone and lost forever. Once again it appears the IRS hasn’t been straight with Congress and the American people.”
Issa also stated that the “The Oversight Committee will be looking for information about her mindset and who she was communicating with outside the IRS during a critical period of time when the IRS was targeting conservative groups”, once the emails have gone through the proper redacting process by TIGTA to make sure taxpayer information remains protected. It is expected to take several more weeks before the tapes are ready for presentation to Congress.
It appears that the IRS was playing a huge game of chicken and just lost. They were betting that the public and Congress and TIGTA would not expend the time and money to bother combing through the disaster recovery tapes, and that we would just take their word for it that the emails were lost. More obfuscation from the “most transparent Administration ever”.