On Wednesday, former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner’s attorney changed his tune on just how lost those two years’ worth of emails actually were. Lerner’s lawyer, William Taylor II, said that Lerner had printed out some emails in order to comply with records-keeping laws. He had previously said that Lerner did not print and file her email communications because she was unaware that she was required to do so.
“During her tenure as Director of Exempt Organizations, she did print out some emails, although not every one of the thousands she sent and received,” Taylor said in a statement.
In an exchange with Politico, Taylor quibbled over whether or not he had misled that news organization when he told them that Lerner did not print out any emails.
“Your question was whether she printed out ‘official records’ and filed them. I am not saying she did that,” Taylor wrote to Politico reporters. That presumes a level of scrutiny and process over every email that did not occur.”
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before Congress that it was his understanding that Lerner had printed out her emails as required by the Federal Records Act. Later, however, Koskinen testified that Lerner may not have printed out her emails because she “did not think it was required.”
In one email released by the House Oversight Committee, Lerner noted that members of Congress had inquired about her email records, “so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails.” She also inquired about whether or not the IRS’s email archives could be easily searched.
Lerner sent this communication just over a month prior to her announcement that the IRS had inappropriately targeted conservative groups.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the latest emails released also suggest that IRS officials routinely used an instant-messaging system which was not archived.
“I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails—so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails,” Ms. Lerner wrote. “Someone asked if [instant messaging] conversations were also searchable—I don’t know, but told them I would get back to them. Do you know?”
“[Instant] messages are not set to automatically save as the standard; however the functionality exists within the software,” the technician wrote back. “My general recommendation is to treat the conversation as if it could/is being saved somewhere, as it is possible for either party of the conversation to retain the information and have it turn up as part of an electronic search.”
“Perfect,” Ms. Lerner replied.
Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) did not mince words about the new revelations:
— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) July 9, 2014