6,500 Lois Lerner emails recovered from backup tapes

It’s an April miracle, Charlie Brown! While the old and largely forgotten IRS scandals have been replaced by whole news sets of scandals, I guess there was still some work going on in the background. The Inspector General for the Treasury announced this week that more than six thousand of Lois Lerner’s emails – lost when “her computer crashed” a few years ago – have been recovered from backup tapes and will be turned over.

The Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration notified the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday that they have recovered thousands of Lois Lerner emails that were not previously produced to Congress, committee members told Fox News.

The inspector general recovered approximately 6,400 Lerner emails and will carefully examine them as part of the committee’s bipartisan IRS investigation…

The IRS, in a statement to the website, said that it was pleased to hear the Treasury’s inspector general found the emails saying it was an “encouraging development that will help resolve remaining questions and dispel uncertainty surrounding the emails.”

The IRS also said it took the inspector general around 10 months to come up with the emails sent or received during the period affected by Lerner’s computer crash.

The emails were mostly from 2013, with a smaller number from 2011 and 2012, so they are at least from the time period when the targeting of conservative groups was taking place. But will any of them be relevant to the case? And if there were any smoking gun style messages contained in the lost files, will they see the light of day? The work is being overseen by the Inspector General, J. Russell George, appointed to the position by George W. Bush in 2004 and having an impressive resume.

Following his nomination by President George W. Bush, the United States Senate confirmed J. Russell George in November 2004, as the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Prior to assuming this role, Mr. George served as the Inspector General of the Corporation for National and Community Service, having been nominated to that position by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2002.

In addition to his duties as the Inspector General for Tax Administration, Mr. George serves as a member of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, a non-partisan, non-political agency created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to provide unprecedented transparency and to detect and prevent fraud, waste, and mismanagement of Recovery funds. There, he serves as chairman of the Recovery.gov committee, which oversees the dissemination of accurate and timely data about Recovery funds.

While there is rarely any sense in pining for “the good old days” when it comes to the government, we’re once again seeing an oversight process where the public’s confidence is, to be charitable, marginal at best. Paper records are mostly a thing of the past, replaced by collections of digital ones and zeros which can be invisibly wiped away. Of course, hard copy documents could be burned or shredded, but at least you knew they existed at one point. The entire episode with Hillary Clinton’s server has probably done more to cast doubt on such record keeping than anything else.

Still, I may be proven to be too much of a pessimist in this case. Perhaps the Inspector General will come up with something useful. We won’t know right away since it will obviously take some time to comb through that many messages. Cross your fingers.