- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2014

The attorney for former IRS official Lois G. Lerner dismissed the scandal surrounding his client as “convenient” electioneering, accusing Republicans of creating suspicions about disappearing emails to drum up support among the GOP base in an election year.

“This is election year politics,” William Taylor said on CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley.” “It’s convenient to have a demon they can create to point to.”

Ms. Lerner, the former director of the Internal Revenue Service Exempt Organizations Unit, is at the heart of the scandal of the IRS targeting conservative groups to deny or delay applications for tax-exempt status. The scandal has spread in recent weeks to include charges of a cover-up and obstruction of congressional investigators.

Thousands of emails were ordered to be turned over to Congress, but were supposedly destroyed by a failure on Ms. Lerner’s computer. Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said on the CNN show Sunday that Congress will “probably never know” what really happened to the emails since the IRS destroyed the hard drive.

But Mr. Taylor said the story is much simpler than a cover-up: Ms. Lerner walked into her office one morning and her computer screen was blue. Even after she asked for help, the agency’s information technology department could not recover the emails.

“You do the best you can under the circumstances. No one was trying to keep anything from being discovered. She was upset as anyone about the loss of the emails and the other documents on there which were quite important to her,” he said. “That’s the story, that’s all there is to it.”

Still, Mr. Issa said it’s surprising that someone with 30 years of experience working for the federal government wouldn’t follow the guidelines that required emails to be printed. The National Archive head also suggested last week that the IRS was not acting in accord with the law on preserving electronic records.

“Do I believe she printed to paper? Yes. She’s an attorney, long-standing, and it’s hard to believe you wouldn’t cover your own paper documents,” he said.

But Mr. Taylor said it’s unreasonable to expect Ms. Lerner to have printed every single email, many of which he said are not even relevant because they pre-date the time frame covered by the investigation.

“She printed out some things,” he said. “You can’t print out hundreds of thousands of emails.”

He said everything that was printed has been turned over to Congress.

Mr. Issa said issues about emails disappearing is missing the root of the problem — that conservative groups were targeted by the IRS and it’s unclear who else may be involved.

Lois Lerner’s unit headed by Lois Lerner and directed by Lois Lerner unfairly targeted and abused conservative groups for what they believed,” Mr. Issa said.

The political fallout has become so bad that even a close adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton says Congress needs to bring in an outside investigator.

Lanny Davis, who also served as an adviser to Bill Clinton when he was president, said Democrats would be asking for an impartial investigation if Republicans controlled the White House, according to a report in the New York Post on Saturday.

“There’s no Democrat that I know of that wouldn’t be asking a Republican administration to conduct an independent investigation” if Republicans were in charge, Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Issa has subpoenaed Ms. Lerner to testify before Congress on the scandal, though she refused to do so, citing her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself.

When asked why Ms. Lerner won’t testify if she is innocent, Mr. Taylor said Republicans have made it clear the only purpose of bringing her before Congress was to vilify her. “There was no pretense this would be a fair process from the beginning,” he said.

Ms. Lerner has recently made news for suggesting the investigation of a group that offered to pay for GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley’s wife to attend an event with him. She asked if the group should be looked into, a co-worker said he didn’t think it was necessary, and the issue was dropped.

Mr. Issa said this issue isn’t critical on its own, but coupled with everything else, it creates a “pattern of behavior” that suggests an agency where abuse of power was routine.

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