'This Pattern Must Stop': IRS Loses More Emails Related to Probes
The IRS announced it has lost emails from five other employees involved in congressional probes into the agency's targeting of conservative groups, including Cincinnati processing agents, a group manager, a tax law specialist and a technical adviser to Lois Lerner.
This comes months after the agency lost an untold number of emails to and from Lerner, former head of the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status, which allegedly disappeared in a 2011 computer crash.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee has been investigating the scandal, said, "The IRS’s ever-changing story is practically impossible to follow at this point, as they modify it each time to accommodate new facts."
"This pattern must stop."
The disclosure came on the same day the Senate's subcommittee on investigations released competing reports on how the IRS handled applications from political groups during the 2010 and 2012 elections.
The Democratic report, released by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, said both liberal and conservative groups were mistreated, revealing no political bias by the IRS. The Republican report, issued by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said conservative groups were clearly treated worse.
The IRS inspector general set off a firestorm last year with an audit that said IRS agents singled out Tea Party and other conservative groups for inappropriate scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.
Lerner's lost emails prompted a new round of scrutiny by Congress, the Justice Department, the inspector general and at least two federal judges.
The IRS blamed computer crashes for all the lost emails. In a statement, the IRS said all the crashes happened well before Congress launched the investigations.
"Throughout this review, the IRS has found no evidence that any IRS personnel deliberately destroyed any evidence," said the IRS statement. "To the contrary, the computer issues identified appear to be the same sorts of issues routinely experienced by employees within the IRS, in other government agencies and in the private sector."
When Congress started investigating the IRS last year, the agency identified 82 employees who might have documents related to the inquiries. The IRS said 18 of those people had computer problems between September 2009 and February 2014. Of those employees, five probably lost emails -- in addition to Lerner -- the agency said Friday.
Lerner, who was placed on leave and has since retired, has emerged as a central figure in congressional investigations. The other five employees appear to be more junior than she.
In addition to the Cincinnati workers, they include a technical adviser to Lerner, a tax law specialist and a group manager in the tax-exempt division.
In general, the IRS said the workers archived emails on their computer hard drives when their email accounts became too full. When those computers crashed, the emails were lost.
"By all accounts, in each instance the user contacted IT staff and attempted to recover his or her data," said the IRS statement.
The IRS has said it stored emails on backup tapes but those tapes were re-used every six months. The inspector general's office is reviewing those tapes to see if any old emails can be retrieved.
Friday's reports by the Senate subcommittee on investigations mark the conclusion of just one investigation. The Justice Department and three other congressional committees are continuing their probes.
Elizabeth Prann joined Uma Pemmaraju on America's News Headquarters today to discuss the IRS's statement and what this might mean for the probes.
“Throughout this review, the IRS has found no evidence that any IRS personnel deliberately destroyed any evidence,” Prann read from the IRS statement.
“To the contrary, the computer issues identified appear to be the same sorts of issues routinely experienced by employees within the IRS, in other government agencies and in the private sector.”
She added that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said there are 760 exchange servers that could contain the missing emails.
Jordan has called for IRS commissioner John Koskinen to testify whether or not those drives were destroyed due to budget cuts.
Watch the clip from America's News Headquarters above.