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Neither America nor Capitol Hill are buying lost IRS emails lie

Written By | Jun 24, 2014

LOS ANGELES, June 23, 2014 — In yet another Friday news dump, it was announced last week that two years of IRS emails — between January 2009 and April 2011 — to and from Lois Lerner, embattled former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, were lost through a 2011 hard drive crash. According to the IRS, they have not been able to recover the emails.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen pledged during a hearing on March 26 to produce every agency document that might be related to the IRS targeting of tea party groups. Now it’s, “Oops, a dog named Crash ate the emails.”

READ ALSO: The big lie: The dog did not eat IRS emails, they are retrievable

“How convenient.” This is the sentiment of much of the Twitterverse, and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (HOC) Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., released a statement saying pretty much the same:

“The supposed loss of Lerner’s emails further blows a hole in the credibility of claims that the IRS is complying with Congressional requests and their repeated assurances that they’re working to get to the truth. If there wasn’t nefarious conduct that went much higher than Lois Lerner in the IRS targeting scandal, why are they playing these games?”

Why indeed. Government is known for its redundancy, which means that its systems have backups, which have backups on top of backups. Having worked as an IT analyst, this writer can attest that it does not matter whether a person’s hard drive has crashed; this information still resides on a server, and servers are backed up, often with one copy stored onsite, and another stored in a secure offsite location. The information never goes away. With a government agency such as the IRS, which handles highly sensitive tax information of over 300 million American citizens, you know this is the case.

Yet the IRS claims it cannot produce emails from Lerner to and from outside agencies or groups such as the White House, the Dept. of Treasury, the DOJ, the Federal Election Commission, and others.

If I were part of the HOC, the first agency I’d tap would be the NSA; they’re good at snagging and recovering data. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, had that same thought. On Friday, he wrote a letter to NSA Director Michael S. Rogers.

“I have asked NSA Director Rogers to send me all metadata his agency has collected on Lois Lerner’s email accounts for the period which the House sought records,” said Stockman. “The metadata will establish who Lerner contacted and when, which helps investigators determine the extent of illegal activity by the IRS.”

READ ALSO: New documents show IRS scandal linked to Washington after all

Maybe we can grant Edward Snowden immunity and get him on the case.

In a statement about this IRS “revelation”, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., wrote: “[T]he IRS reveals that key emails from the time of the targeting have been lost. And they bury that fact deep in an unrelated letter on a Friday afternoon. In that same letter, they urge Congress to end the investigations into IRS wrongdoing.”

What is the IRS trying to hide? Chairman Camp wonders the same thing: “This is not the transparency promised to the American people. If there is no smidgen of corruption what is the Administration hiding?”

Here are some theories:

  • Someone in Obama administration is directly connected to the targeting. One thing the HOC has not been able to do is connect the dots of this corruption to the administration. It’s a good bet that these emails fill in the gaps in the trail. In April 2014, IRS emails secured by the HOC showed that staffers working for Elijah Cummings, Democratic ranking member of the HOC, communicated with the IRS multiple times about voter fraud prevention group True the Vote. True the Vote is one of the groups that was targeted by the IRS after applying for tax exempt status.
  • Rep. Cummings is probably not the only elected official with his hands in the dirt. If and when we recover these emails, there will be ties to the Obama 2012 campaign, and to prominent Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Democrat National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. The emails could provide evidence of a coordinated Democratic effort to undermine tea party groups.
  • The IRS is the oversight agency for Obamacare. Obamacare hasn’t been getting much press these days, but the draconian and still poorly executed law that has taken over one-sixth of the American economy is still affecting people’s lives for the worse, and the law’s requirements are still unfolding. Even before the IRS scandal broke, having this agency oversee the penalties and payments made by American citizens for their healthcare was like having the fox oversee the hen house. The IRS already holds massive control over the livelihood of Americans, and now it has even more power. The information resident in those emails could well have had ammunition to put a stop to this prospect.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest (soon to be the press secretary) is playing the part, and filling Jay Carney’s dancing shoes quite nicely. He said of the speculation questioning whether the e-mails were actually lost:

READ ALSO: Lois Lerner and Congress: Mutual contempt but no real consequences

“There is ample evidence to indicate that a good faith effort has been made by the IRS to cooperate with Congressional oversight, and the far-fetched skepticism expressed by some Republican members of Congress I think is not at all surprising and not particularly believable.”

Earnest added, “this speculation is indicative of the kinds of conspiracies that are propagated around this story.”

So to paraphrase, “more partisan moon battery — nothing to see here.”

Fox News’s Bret Baier read this statement to the political panel on his Special Report news hour. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer reminded viewers that one of the articles of impeachment brought against President Richard Nixon was the abuse of the IRS to pursue political enemies. A missing 18 ½ minutes of audio on Richard Nixon’s Watergate-era tapes versus 26 months of emails? “This is a high crime, this is not a triviality,” Krauthammer warned.

National Journal columnist Ron Fournier, who has, for the most part, been pretty supportive of the Obama administration had this sobering response: “Josh’s statement, with all due respect, is insulting to my intelligence — it really makes me angry. The reason there’s questions about this is because they haven’t answered the questions. The fact of the matter is that, we don’t know the facts, we don’t know if anybody is guilty here or not, but we do know that one of the most pernicious things our government can do is use the IRS to come after us.”

READ ALSO: Watergate déjà vu : The IRS ‘loses’ two years of emails

This makes those 18 ½ minutes of missing audio look like small change in comparison. As they say on The X-Files, “The Truth is Out There.” Recovering those emails will help reveal the truth.

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Jennifer Oliver OConnell

Jennifer Oliver OConnell offers witty, insightful, and direct opinion, analysis and musings on local and national politics and popular culture, with occasional detours into reinvention, food, and Yoga. Jennifer also teaches Yoga, and coaches clients on careers and reinvention. You can keep up with what's in Jennifer's orbit through her As the Girl Turns website.