- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The House’s top investigator and a member of the White House’s counsel team had a difference of legal opinion Tuesday.

Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, ordered Jennifer O'Connor to appear before his panel and explain how the IRS tried to retrieve emails from Lois Lerner, the former agency official at the center of a Republican probe into the IRS’s political targeting of conservative groups.

But her testimony got off to a frosty start when Mr. Issa told Ms. O'Connor that she is a “hostile witness” who only showed up because she got a subpoena.

“I’m not a hostile witness,” Ms. O'Connor said.

“Oh yes, you are,” Mr. Issa shot back.

Ms. O’Connor served as a liaison between members of Congress and acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel between May 30 and Nov. 30 of last year.

She told the committee that agency officials worked diligently to dig up emails related to specific search terms for the committee’s review.

“We did our best,” she said.

When lawmakers subpoenaed all of Ms. Lerner’s emails in August, the retrieval team had to “circle back” to satisfy the new order while it was decrypting emails from the original request.

Mr. Issa said the IRS did not move quickly enough to respond to the second request, taking months to produce information and admitting this month that it had lost two years’ worth of Ms. Lerner’s emails.

The lost emails are denting the IRS’s credibility, which has already suffered from the tea party scandal in which the agency targeted conservative groups for improper scrutiny, asking questions about their religious leanings and donors. The agency also wrongly blocked approval for some of those applications, in some cases for years.

Ms. O'Connor started her new job at the White House in the middle of May. Her positions at the IRS and White House, at various periods over the last year, created a disconnect between lawmakers on the dais and the witness.

Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, asked Ms. O'Connor about things that happened at the White House’s counsel office before she got there. But he thought she should have gotten up to speed before her appearance on Tuesday.

“You didn’t ask, like, ‘What happened here?’” he said.