Remember when Barack Obama insisted that there wasn’t a “smidgen of corruption” in his administration related to the IRS scandal? Good times, good times. The discovery of tens of thousands of e-mails from Lois Lerner, the central figure in the IRS targeting of conservative non-profits, may rewrite the scandal — and may end up with criminal charges for Lerner:
Federal investigators are looking for possible criminal activity in connection with the missing emails of a central figure in the Internal Revenue service’s targeting scandal.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration testified at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Thursday that it tracked down nearly 33,000 emails from ex-IRS official Lois Lerner. …
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before Congress last year that the backups were no help in recovering Lerner’s lost emails, in part because the IRS overwrites them every six months.
Camus said the IRS’s technology specialists told investigators that no one from the agency asked for the tapes, raising doubts about whether the agency did its due diligence in trying to locate Lerner’s emails, or possibly greater troubles.
“There is potential criminal activity,” Camus said.
Patrick Howley reports that the IG’s investigation is having technical problems of its own, but that it’s clear that Koskinen didn’t tell Congress the truth last year about the records:
Why is the investigation on hold?
Camus said that he is currently battling it out over licensing issues with a software company that makes some kind of software that Camus needs to “match” the emails he has with the emails that have already been turned over to Congress – so that he can give Congress only the ones that Congress doesn’t have yet. Camus called the software vendor a “renowned company.” …
Under questioning from chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Camus confirmed that the inspector general found Lerner’s backup email tapes at a storage facility in West Virginia and that the IT professionals who had the tapes were never asked — by the IRS or anyone else — for the tapes. Camus said that he found what he believes are Lerner’s 2011 tapes just two weeks ago.
Camus also said that “the facts as we understand them can and have changed on a daily basis.”
In fact, Camus stated, Lerner’s e-mail records were “right where you would expect them to be.” A year ago, the IRS claimed after two months of looking that the e-mail records were irretrievably lost; it took TIGTA just two weeks to find them in the usual backup records. The rather obvious conclusion is that the IRS didn’t want to find those records, and hoped that announcing them as destroyed would end the probe into Lerner’s records. If that’s the case, then it raises the question about just how much IRS leadership knows about Lerner’s communications, and how much they might be involved in them (worth noting: Koskinen came in afterward).
Koskinen may have set himself up for a contempt charge with Congress; at the very least, he’s going to have to explain how he gave them false information about IRS records last year. Did he know about a cover-up, or did his aides pull a fast one on him too? To sell that, he’ll need to dispense with his arrogance this time around. He may well discover that Lois Lerner’s strategy of taking the Fifth may be his best path moving forward.