The ultimate Friday document dump? 30,000 Lerner e-mails magically appear

What was that old saying about when you should unload bad news to the press? Absent any massive explosions or a sudden outbreak of new Ebola cases in the heartland, the day after announcing executive amnesty was probably about the best you could hope for. Rick Moran notes the rather convenient timing for the IRS to “find” tens of thousands of e-mails from Lois Lerner and hand them over. Just to clarify, we don’t actually have the e-mails themselves yet. They are stored on “disaster recovery tapes” and it may take months to sift them out, but they are coming. It was originally reported by the Washington Examiner.

The missing emails extend from 2009 to 2011, a period when Lerner headed the IRS’s exempt-organizations division. The emails were lost when Lerner’s computer crashed, IRS officials said earlier this year.

In June, IRS Administrator John Koskinen told Congress the emails were probably lost for good because the disaster recovery tape holds onto the data for only six months. He said even if the IRS had sought the emails within the six-month period, it would have been a complicated and difficult process to produce them from the tapes.

The IRS also lost the emails of several other employees who worked under Lerner during that period.

Lerner, who retired from the IRS, has refused to be questioned by Congress.

Rick doesn’t think we should get our hopes up too much at this point.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: They will find no smoking gun that definitively ties the White House to the targeting scandal. Those emails — if they ever existed — would have been destroyed long ago. It’s not likely that there is any kind of electronic or paper trail that leads back to the White House. These guys may not be the brightest bulbs in the room, but is there anyone in Washington stupid enough to leave bread crumbs for a prosecutor to follow?

What we are likely to find that’s new is more information on the evolution of the targeting policy and further illumination of Lois Lerner’s animus toward conservatives. Which Democratic senators were applying the most pressure to go after the Tea Party groups?

I agree that a smoking gun is probably not going to turn up in this pile, but it can’t be ruled out entirely. But that’s not necessarily the only thing to be looking for. It will take a lot of sifting and detailed study, but there could be any number of different bread crumb trails in there. Hopefully, whichever committee gets their hands on this trove will share it fully with some citizen journalists who have the time and resources to crowdsource the effort and take a fine tooth comb to them. As Rick notes, there could be tantalizing mentions of other “lost” documents in this backlog. Also, the content may not be as important as who some of the missives were sent to.

When dealing with a problem like this, the problem isn’t always as simple as getting the right answers. With this much mystery and obfuscation, you frequently may not even know what questions to be asking or, in this case, who to be asking. Those are the sorts of loose threads which careful analysis of these e-mails may provide to be pulled by a careful investigator. Start the clock on the saga of the tapes. We should be able to revisit this by some time in late winter.