By Todd Beamon
WASHINGTON D.C. – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa on Tuesday subpoenaed the computer former IRS supervisor Lois Lerner used and other electronic data regarding the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.
The California Republican asked Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen for back-up tapes, external drives, hard drives, and other electronic files either sent or received by Lerner between Jan. 1, 2009, and Sept. 23, 2013.
Issa also is seeking the computer that Lerner herself used during that period in the subpoena.
“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,” Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the committee, said in a statement. “When Commissioner Koskinen testified before the committee in February, he made no mention of this.
“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,” Issa added. “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. This subpoena seeks those answers.”
Issa’s subpoena comes after the chairman summoned Koskinen to testify next Monday on the loss of a trove of Lerner emails from before 2011. Koskinen is scheduled to testify before the Ways and Means Committee next Tuesday.
The agency said last Friday that it had lost an untold number of emails when Lerner’s computer crashed that year. Lerner, who retired last year in light of the scandal, headed the division that evaluates applications for tax-exempt status.
The scrutiny began in 2010 and continued to just before the 2012 presidential election. Among the groups targeted were True the Vote, the Houston organization that combats election fraud, and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a nonprofit political group advised by Republican strategist Karl Rove.
Lerner was found in contempt of Congress last month after refusing twice to testify before Issa’s committee.
But the IRS also has lost emails from six additional IRS workers whose computers crashed, two top Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee charged on Tuesday.
Those employees include Nikole Flax, who was chief of staff to Steven Miller, Lerner’s boss who was deputy IRS commissioner when the scandal broke.
Miller later became acting IRS commissioner, but was forced to resign last year after an inspector general disclosed that agents had improperly singled out tea party, conservative, and religious groups for special scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.
Michigan Rep. Dave Camp, the Ways and Means chairman, and Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, who heads the subcommittee, have called on the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS.
Attorney General Eric Holder has declined to take the step in the past. Besides Ways and Means and the Oversight panels, the agency also is being investigated by Holder’s office and the Senate Finance Committee.
“It looks like the American people were lied to and the IRS tried to cover up the fact it conveniently lost key documents in this investigation,” Camp and Boustany said in a statement. “The White House promised full cooperation, the commissioner promised full access to Lois Lerner emails and now the agency claims it cannot produce those materials and they’ve known for months they couldn’t do this.”
In addition, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents 41 organizations who are suing the government in federal court, sent letters to federal agencies and Democratic senators asking them to preserve documents relating to the case.
“The Obama administration’s IRS continues to spin an unbelievable tale that is simply absurd,” said Jay Sekulow, the center’s chief counsel. “The disappearing emails will not prevent us from pursuing the evidence that we know exists – evidence that shows a well-orchestrated effort to unlawfully target groups because of their political beliefs.”
Besides the IRS and Justice, the center sent letters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Election Commission, and the White House. It also sent correspondence to several Democrats who have been mentioned in IRS correspondence.
They include Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Al Franken of Minnesota, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire The group also has targeted Reps. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, and Peter Welch of Vermont.
“It is troubling to see a brazen, out-of-control IRS utilizing increasingly unbelievable stonewalling tactics to cover-up the truth from the American people,” Sekulow said. “We will not permit that to occur.”