Flashback: Koskinen Has Hard Time Saying If IRS Will Hand Over All Lerner's Emails

Susan Jones | June 17, 2014 | 11:13am EDT
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IRS Commissioner John Koskinen (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Almost three months ago, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) repeatedly asked IRS Commissioner John Koskinen if he would deliver "all of Lois Lerner's emails" to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as outlined in a lawful subpoena.

It was a simple question, to which Koskinen would not give a simple answer.

In fact, it took around ten minutes of questioning on March 26 for the IRS commissioner to finally concede that if the Oversight Committee really wants all of Lerner's emails -- not just those that respond to certain search words -- then "we will go that way."

At the time, Koskinen said nothing about the thousands of missing emails -- a two-year gap between Jan. 2009 and April 2011 supposedly caused when Lerner's computer crashed.

The IRS told Congress about the missing Lerner emails on Friday, more than a year after Congress began investigating the IRS targeting of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status before the 2010 election. Lerner at the time headed the IRS's tax-exempt division.

'Will you provide all of the emails?'

At the March 26, 2014 Oversight Committee hearing, Chairman Issa pressed Koskinen for almost ten minutes, saying again and again that the committee wants to see all of Lerner's emails -- not just those considered relevant by the IRS.

Issa noted that he pulled all of his emails off the House computer, and it took one person "a very small part of the morning" to do it. So what's taking the IRS so long to produce "all" of Lerner's emails, Issa asked Koskinen: "We asked for all of her emails. Do you have any privilege or any reason that you can't and shouldn't  have delivered that motnhs ago?"

"Going through all of those emails, which are mililons of emails, to make sure we have not only the outgoing emails but the incoming emails, is not a matter of a few minutes or a few hours," Koskinen responded.

Issa followed up: "We issued you lawful subpoenas because you didn't cooperate based on letters. Our subpoena says all of Lois Lerner's emails. Is it your position today that you intend to give us those responsive to some key search words? Or you intend to give us all of Lois Lerner's emails...."

"We are working through the process," Koskinen said. "We have never said we would not provide those; we are anxious, as I have said --

"Will you provide all of the emails..." Issa interrupted.

"We will provide you. We are actually trying to in an orderly way..." Koskinen said. "We are producing emails. You will get email copies today, redacted, and you will continue to get them..."

Issa repeated: My question to you today -- will you commit here today to provide all of the emails? Not all the emails you believe are responsive, not all the emails you choose to give, not all the emails that are other than embarassing. All of the emails."

"Mr. Chairman, we are prepared to continue to work with your staff, " Koskinen replied, warning that all of the emails would include "hundreds of thousands of pages of irrelevant documents."

Issa said the committee wants all of Lerner's emails to determine "who she was and why she did what she did."

Finally, a gruding Koskinen told the committee that "all" of Lerner's emails would include "an overwhelming volume of material... a significant part of which will have nothing to do with this investigation. But if that's the way the committee wants to go, we will go that way."

'No intention of fully complying...'

Later in the same hearing, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked Koskinen if there was any doubt or ambiguity about what the committee's subpoena means.

"Are you going to comply?" he asked. How long could it possibly take to type in Lerner's email address and do a search, he wondered.

"We are going to respond to the subpoena," Kooskinen said, adding that it would take "years," not "months," because the emails have to be redacted.

"This commissioner has no intention of fully complying with this duly issued subpoena," Chaffetz concluded. "That's the case. That's where both us, on both sides of the aisle, need to stand up for the integrity of the House of Representatives. When you have a duly issued subpoena, you comply with it. It's not optional," a furious Chaffetz said.

Another subpoena

On Monday, June 16, Issa's committee subpoenaed Koskinen to testify before the Oversight Committee on June 23, 2014, at 7:00 p.m.  

In a letter that accompanied the subpoena, Issa wrote: “I will not tolerate your continued obstruction and game-playing in response to the Committee’s investigation of the IRS targeting.  For too long, the IRS has promised to produce requested -- and, later, subpoenaed -- documents, only to respond later with excuses and inaction.  Despite your empty promises and broken commitments to cooperation, the IRS still insists on flouting Constitutional congressional oversight."

Issa also noted that Congress passed the Federal Records Act to preserve key documents -- "such as those that were stored on Lerner’s hard drive."

Also See:
Congress to Obama: Send Us 'All Communications' Between Your Office and Lois Lerner
WH on Lois Lerner's Vanished Emails: 'You've Never Heard of A Computer Crashing Before?'
IRS Apologizes for targeting tea party groups

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