Rep. Jim Jordan accused the Internal Revenue Service of a cover up Wednesday, saying the agency only told congressional investigators that they’d lost IRS employee Lois Lerner’s email after it was forced to do so.
At a hearing of a House panel investigating allegations that the IRS unfairly targeted conservative groups, Jordan, R-Urbana, who is chair of the subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulatory Affairs, said the agency only confessed to losing emails sought by House oversight panels after the conservative organization Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency.
At issue are the emails about the targeting of certain groups by the IRS sent and received by Lerner, who was director of exempt organizations until she resigned in late 2013. Congressional investigators, including the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, have subpoenaed Lerner’s emails as part of the investigation. Lerner’s hard drive crashed in the summer of 2011, and the IRS has told investigators they cannot recover emails she sent and received before then.
IRS Commission John Koskinen originally told investigators that he had been told the hard drive was destroyed after IT workers determined its information was lost. But on July 17, IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane, who supervises the IRS’s targeting scandal document production to Congress, told the committee he was uncertain whether the tapes had been totally destroyed.
At the hearing Wednesday, Koskinen said he is unaware whether the tapes included usable information that could be recovered or not. He did say an independent investigator confirmed that investigators are reviewing the tapes.
Koskinen, who has appeared before congressional investigators three times within the last month, said to date, the IRS has produced more than 960,000 pages of unredacted documents to the tax-writing committees, including Ways and Means, and more than 700,000 pages of redacted documents to Oversight and Government Reform. He said more than 250 IRS employees have spent more than 125,000 hours working on complying with the investigations — at a cost of $10.75 million.
Democrats said the intense focus on the issue is aimed more at attracting headlines than conducting an investigation.
Rep. Matt Cartwright, R-Pa., the ranking member of the subcommittee, said the repeated hearings are meant to do little more than draw headlines and “publicly harangue federal agency heads.”
“I believe these repeated hearings are both an abuse of authority and a dereliction of this committee’s duties,” he said.