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A key member of the House Ways and Means Committee says he does not believe years worth of emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner and six other figures vital to the investigation are suddenly missing, but he also hinted his committee may not do much to hold anyone accountable for failing to preserve and produce the documents.
In the past week, the IRS revealed nearly two-and-a-half years worth of Lerner’s emails are “missing” and cannot be given to congressional investigators because her computer crashed. Subsequently, lawmakers were informed computer problems also wiped out the emails of six other figures connected to the investigation.
“As an old cop, there’s something fishy somewhere. I have some waterfront property in Arizona to sell. I don’t believe a word of it,” said Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., a member of the Ways and Means Committee who spent most of his adult life in law enforcement.
Both the Ways and Means Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have requested volumes of documents in connection with the alleged IRS harassment of conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status. Reichert said his committee is getting evidence in a slow trickle, but even that glacial pace is turning up information that has the IRS running scared.
“We got enough information that helped direct us to certain individuals to focus on and interview. Those interviews then led us to ask for more documentation. This is an investigation very similar to many I participated in in my 33 years in law enforcement,” Reichert said.
“You interview people. You collect documents. They lead you to other people to talk to and other documents to search for. All of a sudden, we’re getting close and Lois Lerner takes the fifth and other people resign. I think we’re really close to finding the truth because all of a sudden they can’t stall us anymore, so now they’ve got a new excuse.
‘We can’t find them. They’re lost. They’ve disappeared. The servers are wiped dry and the hard drive is gone and we have no idea how to get this information back,’ which is also something I don’t believe,” he said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash.:
Reichert said the committee was informed of the "missing" emails in a letter from the IRS, but he said that vital information was "buried on Page 15 in a 27-page letter."
On Friday, the Ways and Means panel will question IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about the emails and other perceived stonewalling in the transfer of documents related to the investigation. Reichert gave a preview of what he will ask.
"We're going to ask him a lot of questions. Who is visiting the White House during this period of time? What were they talking about?
"Especially (former Chief of Staff to the Deputy Commissioner) Nikole Flax, because Nikole Flax is also one of those people whose emails have disappeared somewhere into Never-never land. Was she updating the White House on targeting or was she getting orders from people? These are answers we don't have," said Reichert.
The congressman also wants to know about any previous computer meltdowns at the IRS.
"One of my questions will be, 'Has this happened before? How many times has this happened before? Were you able to recover the information in past events? Did you make any corrections to your system to help prevent this from happening?' Obviously, if this is a true story, they didn't," Reichert said.
"It's very suspect that Lois Lerner and these six others who were deeply engaged in conversation regarding the targeting of conservative people and organizations, they're the ones whose emails have been lost," he said.
Conservatives suing the IRS for alleged harassment are already making plans to go to court over the missing emails if necessary. However, when directly asked how his colleagues will respond to the recent IRS actions, Reichert said the Ways and Means Committee will likely be content to plow forward with the documents the IRS has disclosed to lawmakers rather than hold officials accountable.
"We're continuing our investigation," he said. "We still have documents to look over. There are thousands of them. As we go through these documents, they do lead us to other people and other interviews. We're going to continue this investigation. As far as what specific steps we'll take, I think that depends on the testimony that (Koskinen) provides us on Friday."