It’s Friday, so IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted to Congressional investigators that the agency that forces all of us to keep records for seven years lest they attempt to audit or imprison us has lost the e-mails of five more of its employees connected to the IRS scandal. The culprit? Computer and hard drive crashes, once again, that occurred between 2009 and 2014, and which Koskinen claims pre-dated the Congressional investigation.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a report sent to the committees investigating whether the IRS unfairly targeted conservative groups in recent years said 18 of the 82 people “had some type of technical computer issue” between September 2009 and February 2014. Five of those “had hard-drive issues that resulted in a probable loss of emails during portions of the four-year period.”
They include: Judy Kindell, a former senior adviser to Lerner; Justin Lowe, a tax law specialist for exempt organizations who worked with Kindell; IRS manager Ron Shoemaker, who helped oversee the tea party cases; and Julie Chen and Nancy Heagney, who are Cincinnati-based IRS agents working on the tea party cases.
Again, Koskinen is claiming there is no evidence that data was deliberately destroyed. But, as I’ve said from the beginning, even if all the computer crashes were completely innocent, which increasingly strains credulity, the IRS has already a) admitted unfairly targeting conservatives explicitly based on the content of their political speech and b) is so incredibly negligent in its record-keeping that Koskinen should be prostrate with guilt instead of hurling spitballs every time he sits in front of Congress.
In other news of the totally innocuous practices of tax-exemption at the IRS, it turns out they wiped Lerner’s Blackberry just as this whole thing was beginning:
One question likely to come up is why the IRS wiped out Lois Lerner’s Blackberry shortly after congressional staffers interviewed the then-IRS official about suspected targeting of conservative groups.
So far, the IRS has provided no answer.
The issue came to light last month after U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered the IRS to explain its efforts to recover emails that went missing when the former official’s hard drive crashed in 2011…
IRS attorney Thomas J. Kane said in a separate declaration that the agency “removed or wiped clean” information from the Blackberry in June 2012, shortly after congressional staffers questioned Lerner about the targeting allegations and in the same month that the IRS inspector general began examining the issue.
Kane offered no explanation for why the IRS “removed or wiped clean” the data, and the IRS did not respond to the same question when asked by The Washington Post on Wednesday.
And, it’s not just e-mails that go missing at the IRS. Whole people do, too!
A top House Republican is demanding the Department of Justice hand over contact information on a former employee accused of having a conflict of interest in the IRS targeting scandal investigation.
In a Sept. 3 letter, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, once again asked Attorney General Eric Holder for information on Andrew Strelka’s whereabouts.
“Despite notifying [Oversight and Government Reform] Committee staff that the [Justice] Department no longer employs Mr. Strelka, the department has refused to assist the committee in speaking to Mr. Strelka directly,” Jordan wrote. “The department’s efforts to prevent the committee from learning Mr. Strelka’s whereabouts suggest the department has cause for keeping him from speaking with the committee.”
Jordan says he wants Strelka’s contact information so the Oversight Committee can conduct a transcribed interview. The letter gives Holder a Friday deadline for the information.
Judicial Watch, the conservative group, has landed another batch of emails from the Internal Revenue Service that raise new questions about the possible extent of alleged targeting of conservative groups.
The new documents could help stoke the IRS targeting story again, as lawmakers return to Washington next week.
Perhaps the most intriguing of the new documents shows that IRS officials had some sort of “secret research project” going that related to the donor lists it had collected – inappropriately, as it turned out – from many conservative nonprofit groups.