By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
A newly released email from former IRS employee Lois G. Lerner, sent just as the tea party targeting scandal was erupting, warned colleagues to “be cautious” about what information they put in emails because it could be turned over to Congress.
“I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress ask 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,” Ms. Lerner wrote in an April 9, 2013, message.
The message came less than two weeks after the IRS’s internal auditor shared a draft report with the agency accusing it of targeting tea party and conservative groups. A month after the email, Ms. Lerner would plant a question at a conference to reveal the scandal, just before the inspector general’s report was made public.
The email was turned over to the House oversight committee last week, more than a year after lawmakers sought it as part of their investigation into the IRS targeting.
Republicans said the email shows Ms. Lerner was aware Congress was probing the agency and that she was preparing to intentionally hide agency discussions from lawmakers.
Ms. Lerner’s emails have become a major scandal in and of themselves after the IRS revealed that her computer hard drive crashed in 2011, causing the agency to lose thousands of her messages.
The IRS went back and tried to recover some of the messages by asking others on the email chain to dig through their mailboxes, but the agency acknowledged some messages may be permanently lost.
Some Republicans have questioned whether the IRS took enough steps to try to recover the emails from the hard drive in 2011.
The head of the National Archives testified to Congress that the IRS likely broke federal records laws by not storing Ms. Lerner’s emails better.
IRS policy was to print out emails that constituted official records, but it’s unclear whether that ever happened.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified to Congress that he believed Ms. Lerner had printed out some emails. But Ms. Lerner’s lawyer, William W. Taylor III, told Politico, a D.C.-based news website, that she didn’t know she was required to do that and so didn’t print out any emails
On Wednesday, Mr. Taylor released a statement saying that “is not entirely accurate” and blamed a “misunderstanding.”
“During her tenure as director of Exempt Organizations, she did print out some emails, although not every one of the thousands she sent and received,” Mr. Taylor said.
“The facts are that Ms. Lerner did not destroy any records subject to the Federal Records Act, she did not cause the computer assigned to her to fail, and she made every effort to recover the files on the computer,” the lawyer said.