Lois Lerner Email: Congress Searches, ‘So We Need to be Cautious About What We Say in Emails’

July 10, 2014 - 12:16 PM

Lois Lerner

IRS official Lois Lerner is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 22, 2013, before the House Oversight Committee hearing. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) – Newly released emails from the IRS show that Lois Lerner, while head of the Exempt Organizations Unit, sent emails expressing concern about Congress requesting emails from the IRS and cautioning other employees about the electronic searches.

When she learned that Office Communications Server (OCS) messages were not set to automatically save, Lerner wrote, “Perfect.” OCS is a form of online chat system that circumvents email.

“We know Miss Lerner’s not being square with the American people” and “we know she can’t be trusted,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) while analyzing the emails during a July 9 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations.

At the hearing, “Examining Solutions to Close the $106 Billion Improper Payments Gap,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) questioned IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about emails showing that Lerner was concerned about the IRS's OCS system.  (See Lerner-Hooke Emails.pdf)

Jordan asked Kokinen: “Three weeks ago, in front of the Ways and Means Committee, you testified, actually we have it on the screen here, Lois Lerner was not trying to destroy email, in fact she was working very hard to restore her emails, do you stand by that statement?”

“As far as I know, yes,” Koskinen said.

“I want to show you a few emails that you’ve had a chance to review now,” Jordan said.  “We got these on July 3rd, 4 o’clock, and I want to show you three emails out of 15,000 that you dumped on us on July 3rd. This one is Lois Lerner to Maria Hooke.”

Jordan then began to quote the e-mail. “I had a question today about OCS,” Lerner stated in the e-mail. “I was cautioning folks about email, how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails -- so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails” – because Congress might get a hold of them and the Americna people might actually find out what the IRS is doing.  But then she closes,  “Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable.”  (See Lerner-Hooke Emails.pdf)

(The final two sentences in that Apr. 9, 2013 e-mail read, "Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable -- I don't know, but told them I would get back to them. Do you know?") (See Lerner-Hooke Emails.pdf)

Jordan then asked the IRS commissioner: “Now, you’re response to the Chairman [Issa] was that you don’t know anything about OCS. Is that true, you have no idea what this system is?”

“Correct,” Koskinen said.

Issa Gives IRS Commissioner Koskinen Second Chance to Amend Testimony

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. (AP)

Jordan continued: “It’s our understanding--and after our staff did some background work--that this is an intra-office instant messaging chat-type system that you have in place at the Internal Revenue Service and this was followed up by a response from Ms. Hooke. So, remember, Ms. Lerner says, ‘I had a question about OCS,’ then Ms. Hooke responds back, ‘OCS messages are not set to automatically save as the standard.’ You follow me, Mr. Koskinen?” Jordan asked.

“Right along with you,” Koskinen said.

“I appreciate it, and then of course the response from Ms. Lerner is ‘perfect,’”  Jordan said.

Jordan then recapped the IRS scandal: “Here’s what I see. Maybe you see something different, but this is what I see. And my guess is the American people see this. At our last hearing, we learned that on June 3, 2011, Chairman Camp sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service saying, hey, we’re concerned about what we think may be targeting of conservative groups. Ten days later, June 13, 2011, a bunch of computers mysteriously crash, including Lois Lerner’s computer.”

“Now we jump forward, March 28, 2013,” said Jordan, “and the Inspector General gives the Internal Revenue Service a discussion draft report, his audit. And you all learn--you weren’t there at the time--but the IRS learns, and specifically Ms. Lerner learns that you've been caught with your hands in the cookie jar and that, in fact, targeting was going on and now the Inspector General knows it.”

tea party

(AP Photo)

“And so, 12 days later, we get this email exchange that we just went through where Ms. Lerner says, wow, I know I’ve gotten rid of the e-mails when the computer crashed two years earlier, but I better double-check on this intra-office instant messaging capability we have here at the Internal Revenue Service, and she says ‘perfect’ when she learns that it’s not traceable, not trackable, not stored,” Jordan said.

“We know Miss Lerner’s not being square with the American people. Remember, it was just 31 days after this e-mail exchange right here. Thirty-one days later, she went to a Bar Association speech here in town, and told the whole world Washington had nothing to do--even though she’s trying to make sure her tracks are covered--she told the whole world, Washington didn’t have anything to do with it, it’s a couple rogue agents, couple line agents in Cincinnati. So we know she can’t be trusted, but what I want to know is why did it take us this long to get these e-mails?” said Jordan. “We’ve been after these for six months and you dump them on us on July 3.”

Koskinen claimed he had never seen the e-mail from Lerner to Hooke, and was unfamiliar with the OCS communication system.

The news of the OCS communication system comes after a long investigation of the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups and their applications for tax-exemption status. Before she resigned from the IRS in September 2013, Lerner was the director of the Exempt Organizations Unit. When called to testify twice before Congress about the IRS-Tea Party scandal, Lerner pleaded the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination.

Since May 2013, House investigations have requested testimony and documents on communications from Lerner and other IRS officials.