WASHINGTON – Before facing a grilling from the House Oversight Subcommittee, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told WND he would love to find Lois Lerner’s missing emails because he would like “closure” on the question.
He also claimed he wasn’t aware of any system-wide backup consisting of 760 servers that might contain Lerner’s emails, which Judicial Watch said it had learned of in documents obtained with a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request.
When asked why Lerner’s Blackberry, containing all of her emails, was wiped clean even after she and the IRS came under suspicion for abusing their power and targeting the president’s critics, Koskinen said it was just disposed of under standard IRS recycling procedures because it had become obsolete and was replaced.
Koskinen also told WND Lerner’s Blackberry would not have held all of the emails in her office computer, just those accessed.
After the IRS chief gave the same explanations to the subcommittee looking into the scandal, Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, blasted Koskinen, accusing the IRS and the Obama administration of issuing a constant stream of “false and misleading statements.”
Jordan and his fellow Republicans on the committee did not severely challenge Koskinen’s explanations regarding the servers and Blackberry. But they repeatedly expressed exasperation over learning testimony had been untrue after new revelations had come to light, time and again.
Jordan reeled off a list that included:
- Assurances the IRS was not targeting conservatives
- Lerner’s assertion the targeting was part of the ordinary review process
- Lerner blaming the targeting on employees in the Cincinnati office
- Former White House spokesman Jay Carney blaming the targeting on “lying” Cincinnati employees
- And, President Obama blaming the entire scandal on a “bonehead” decision by a Cincinnati employee
Under questioning, the IRS chief twice admitted the targeting of conservatives was not limited to the agency’s Cincinnati office.
Jordan also made sure to express how upset he was with a quote the top tax collector recently made in an interview.
In July, Koskinen, referring to the hearings said, “[T]here are some people who don’t want a straight story. They don’t want this to end.”
The commissioner also was quoted as saying, “I’m not sure if people really want a special prosecutor, because that would shut everything down. The special prosecutor then would have sole domain over all this and so you wouldn’t be holding all these fun hearings, every week or two.”
After reading the quotes, Jordan asked Koskinen, “Who’s ‘they?'”
The IRS boss replied it was “A general statement. No one in particular.”
Who are “some people?” the chairman asked.
Just people in general, again replied Koskinen.
“What I couldn’t understand, who doesn’t want the truth? Who doesn’t want a straight story?” said an exasperated Jordan, clearly feeling the commissioner was referring to him and fellow Republicans on the committee.
The congressman then reminded Koskinen that he had actually sponsored the bill calling for a special prosecutor, and 224 Republicans and 26 Democrats had voted for it.
A clearly defensive Koskinen replied, “I’m just saying a special prosecutor would take jurisdiction over all this.”
And a clearly indignant Jordan replied, “Oh, I see, and that means we won’t have any more of these ‘fun’ hearings. And that’s what frosts me and frosts the American people.”
This latest hearing was called after new hope was raised that some of Lerner’s emails might be on the found on the 760 servers revealed in the Judicial Watch FOIA.
Koskinen had testified before Congress in June there were no copies of two years’ worth of Lerner’s missing emails because the agency’s backup system consisted of storing all department emails on tapes that were recycled every six months.
Many members of Congress and IT experts were flabbergasted by that, as virtually all businesses store all their archives permanently on servers.
Their suspicions may have been on the mark, according to information uncovered by Judicial Watch.
Jordan announced two weeks ago the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, has identified 760 exchange servers that could contain Lerner’s missing emails from the critical two-year period in question.
Jordan’s office released a statement pointing out that “contradicts Commissioner Koskinen’s sworn testimony before Congress about Ms. Lerner’s missing e-mails.”
In a letter to Koskinen, Jordan wrote, “According to TIGTA, the IRS did not search these sources for Ms. Lerner’s e-mails during its process of producing documents to Congress because the IRS was not aware that the exchange servers even existed. According to TIGTA, the IRS was under the mistaken belief that the exchange servers had been destroyed in 2012 until TIGTA’s review of IRS records indicated that the servers had not been destroyed due to budgetary constraints. These 760 exchange server tapes could be a potential source for the destroyed e-mails sent or received by Ms. Lerner.”
The IRS made the stunning admission in June of this year, on Friday the 13th, that tens of thousands of Lerner’s emails were missing, including those during the crucial period from 2009 to 2011, when she headed the tax-exempt division that she later admitted was inappropriately targeting conservative groups.
Some congressional investigators were immediately suspicious, because the date she told her superiors her laptop had crashed, June 13, 2011, was just 10 days after Congress first began inquiring about the IRS’ targeting of conservatives, when Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., sent a letter to then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.
Jordan and other Oversight Committee members were also incensed with Koskinen because he took two months to tell investigators about the missing emails.
Senior IRS leadership learned in February of this year that Lerner’s hard drive supposedly crashed in 2011.
Koskinen said he became aware of it in April, when someone also informed the White House.
But it wasn’t until June, two months later, that Koskinen informed Congress.
As WND reported in July, that revelation caused a furious Jordan to doubt that Koskinen had planned to tell Congress about the missing emails at all.
“My theory is this, Mr. Koskinen, you guys weren’t ever gonna tell us until we caught you,” Jordan pointedly told Koskinen.
“And we caught you because Judicial Watch did a FOIA request,” he added.
The line of questioning began with Jordan asking, “Why didn’t you tell us in April? Why’d you wait two months?”
The IRS chief said his motive was to first produce all of Lerner’s emails that the agency possessed.
So, Jordan wondered, why did the IRS reveal Lerner’s hard drive had supposedly crashed, causing the loss of two years of emails, to the Senate Finance Committee on June 13? Why not some other date?
After Koskinen said something to the effect that the occasion seemed right, Jordan countered sharply: “I think it is something different. I think you were never going to tell us.”
Jordan said he believed the IRS was forced to make the revelation after learning the Oversight Committee had obtained a 2010 email between Lerner and Justice Department attorney Tony Pilger in which they discussed the possibility of criminally prosecuting conservative groups.
Jordan said the IRS learned June 9 that congressional investigators had obtained that email.
“Then, suddenly, four days later, on June 13, you tell the Finance Committee” about Lerner’s missing emails, Jordan said.
That’s when the Ohio congressman suggested the IRS chief was “never going to tell us until you got caught.”
Jordan said he believed the only reason the IRS revealed the missing emails was because it had to confess it had lost its version of the crucial email between Pilger and Lerner.
Logical people would conclude, the subcommittee chairman said, that is what made Koskinen decide “we’d better come clean.”
Koskinen bristled at the explosive charge that he had participated in a cover-up.
His voice rising, the commissioner retorted, “When you find evidence to support that, I’d like to see it.”
Struggling a bit to regain his composure, he maintained, “If you think we could produce a report in four days, you don’t know how a large organization functions.”
Jordan calmly replied that he didn’t think the IRS put together the report in four days.
“I think you just stuck it into the report,” he said, suggesting the IRS thinking was, “They got us, we’d better come clean.”
Koskinen shot back: “Can I respond to that? That’s a serious charge. If you find any such evidence, I’ll be astounded. Before you make that kind of charge and claim, you ought to have better evidence than a single email dated June 9.”
Jordan said he was just pointing out the “timing is pretty suspect,” because the IRS had just discovered investigators were getting emails from the Justice Department they weren’t getting from the tax agency.
“In light of everything we’ve heard from the IRS, when you start looking at the timeline, it looks pretty suspect,” explained Jordan.
“And all I’m saying is, I’m not sure they were gonna tell us.”
Later in that July hearing, Jordan further hammered the point home.
He said IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane told the committee that senior IRS leadership first became concerned about the possibility of missing emails from Lerner on Feb. 2 and confirmed a hard-drive crash only two days later.
Yet, Jordan pointed out, “you come to Congress” three times after that without informing investigators about the missing emails, “and we’re supposed to buy that? C’mon.”
Even before those exchanges, GOP lawmakers had said it was a mathematical near-certainty that the IRS has been engaged in a cover-up.
At the opening of the hearing, Jordan expressed exasperation that the IRS story has gone from reporting the crash of just Lerner’s hard drive to seven or eight hard-drive crashes to as many as 20 crashes of hard drives belonging to IRS personnel under investigation.
Calling it “unbelievable,” Jordan noted the committee has now learned that almost one-fourth of the IRS people under investigation may have had hard-drive crashes.
Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif, said it was now clear there was a “convenient loss of data by far more people than is explained by the relevant math formulas.”
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