Issa Subpoenas Lois Lerner’s IRS Computer Hard Drive

Michael W. Chapman | June 17, 2014 | 5:11pm EDT
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Computer hard drive. (AP)

( – Because the IRS told Congress late last Friday that former IRS official Lois Lerner’s computer had apparently crashed and her emails from January 2009 to April 2011 were now lost, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena today for that computer hard drive, other electronic devices,  and all communications and documents related to that PC crash.

“After a year of beating down efforts by the Obama administration and its allies to obstruct an investigation into targeting, the IRS now says it lost perhaps the most critical evidence,” said House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in a June 17 statement.

“When [IRS] Commissioner Koskinen testified before the Committee in February, he made no mention of this,” said Issa.  “It was only earlier this month, during an interview with a Justice Department official, that the Oversight Committee learned about the existence of subpoenaed 2010 Lerner e-mails that the IRS had not produced.”

“While this apparently forced the IRS to cough up an admission, we still do not have answers about how and why the IRS tried to deceive Congress about these missing e-mails,” said Issa.  “This subpoena seeks those answers.”

Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit. (AP)

Lois Lerner was the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit.  When news broke in May 2013 that the IRS had been delaying approval of the tax-exempt status applications of numerous Tea Party and conservative organizations since at least early 2010, Congress started to investigate the matter.

Lerner was called to testify twice before Congress about the scandal but she pleaded the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination both times.  Lerner resigned from the IRS in September 2013 after an internal review board concluded she should be removed for “neglect of duties.”

In May 2014, the House of Representatives voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.

Since May of last year, House investigators have requested documents on the Tea Party tax-exempt applications, as well as related communications, including e-mails from Lois Lerner and other IRS officials.  At least three congressional committees are investigating Lerner’s role in the scandal.

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In a letter to the Senate Committee on Finance last Friday, June 13, IRS Director for Legislative Affairs Leonard Oursler disclosed, “the IRS has determined that Ms. Lerner’s computer crashed in mid-2011. See Attachment E. At that time, the IRS Information Technology Division tried – at Ms. Lerner’s request – multiple processes to recover the information stored on her computer’s hard drive." (See 6.13-Wyden-Hatch-Response.pdf)

“However, the data stored on her computer’s hard drive was determined at the time to be ‘unrecoverable’ by IT professionals,” reads the letter. “Attachment F. Any of Ms. Lerner’s email that was only stored on that computer’s hard drive would have been lost when the hard drive crashed and could not be recovered.”

When asked about the hard drive and the lost emails on Tuesday, June 17, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “You’ve never heard of a computer crashing before?”

Asked by a reporter if that was a reasonable claim, Earnest said, “I think it’s entirely reasonable because it’s the truth and it’s a fact, and speculation otherwise I think is indicative of the kinds of conspiracies that are propagated around this story.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), right, and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). (AP)

On Monday, June 16, the House Oversight Committee subpoenaed IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to testify on June 23 about the IRS losing the unknown number of Lerner/IRS e-mails covering the period January 2009 to April 2011.

That subpoena “also comes on the heels of the IRS’s repeated empty promises of compliance with oversight,” said the committee in a statement.

For the subpoena issued today, the Oversight Committee is, among other items, requesting the following:

  • All back-up tapes, external drives, thumb drives, or other storage media the IRS used to capture, archive, back up, or otherwise record e-mails sent or received by Lois Lerner from January 1, 2009, to September 23, 2013.
  • All hard drives, external drives, thumb drives, and computers Lois G. Lerner used from January 1, 2009, to September 23, 2013.
  • All electronic communication devices the IRS issued to Lois G. Lerner from January 1, 2009, to September 23, 2013.
  • All electronic files, including, but not limited to, .pst files, relating to the IRS e-mail account Lois G. Lerner used from January 1, 2009, to September 23, 2013.
  • All documents and communications between or among IRS employees and employees of any Executive Branch entity referring or relating to the IRS’s production of documents to Congress from May 10, 2013, to the present.

On a related note, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp called upon the White House and President Barack Obama to provide his committee with "all communications between Lois Lerner and any persons within the Executive Office of President for the period between January 1, 2009 and May 1, 2011."

Camp said he's also requested "all communications" between Lerner and anyone working at the Treasury Department, Justice Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Election Commission, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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