- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2014

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress on Friday that he doesn’t owe any apology for the agency losing Lois G. Lerner’s emails — or for waiting so long to inform investigators about the loss.

“I don’t think an apology is owed. Not a single email has been lost since the start of this investigation,” the commissioner told the House Ways and Means Committee under stern questioning.

Mr. Koskinen said he didn’t inform Congress immediately because he wanted to find out the full scope of the situation before reporting to them.

Ms. Lerner is the central figure in the tea party targeting scandal. A hard drive crash in 2011 caused two years of her emails to be lost, though Mr. Koskinen said they are trying to recover as many of those emails as possible by using other methods.

But 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.

“Nobody believes you,” Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, told Mr. Koskinen, questioning how an agency as powerful as the IRS could not have the capacity to store all emails. “You ask taxpayers to hang onto seven years of their personal taxpayer info in case they’re ever audited, and you can’t keep more than six months of employees’ emails?”

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Mr. Koskinen said the hard drive has been “recycled and destroyed,” but he said they have gone back and tried to recover emails from 82 other IRS employees who may have been on email chains with Ms. Lerner.

He said they have turned over about 30,000 emails, including 25,000 from Ms. Lerner’s account and another 5,000 recovered from some of those other IRS employees. Still to come are more than 30,000 more emails, including nearly 20,000 that were lost on Ms. Lerner’s hard drive but were gleaned from other employees’ accounts.

In the process of the investigation, Mr. Koskinen said they found seven other employees’ hard drives had also crashed — though he said it’s unclear right now whether emails were lost in those crashes.

He said the spate of crashes is to be expected given “the agency’s aging information-technology infrastructure,” which he blamed on a lack of funds.
Republicans said the email situation underscores the lack of trust in the IRS at this point.

“This is about as far as you can get from getting this thing fixed,” said Committee Chairman Dave Camp, Michigan Republican.

Democrats countered that the Bush administration also lost emails.

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During an investigation whether that administration dismissed U.S. attorneys because of political leanings, the Bush White House admitted having lost 5 million emails that were unrecoverable.

At that time, it was congressional Democrats who said they were skeptical of the White House, saying they doubted the emails could truly be lost.
In the current IRS case, Democrats said Republicans are trying to gin up a conspiracy theory.

“The prevailing conspiracy in this matter is that of the Republicans’ desire to stir their base, tie the problem to the White House and keep up this drum beat until the November election,” said Rep. Sander M. Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the committee.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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