The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has informed several committees of Congress that approximately 30,000 emails from Lois Lerner, the former chief of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, that were thought to be lost forever have been found.
The TIGTA said it would take several months to retrieve the emails because they have been stored on “disaster recovery tapes” and separating them is a laborious and time consuming task.
The emails take in the years 2009-11. Some may be duplicates of emails Lerner has already supplied to Congress.
From the Washington Examiner:
Committees in the House and Senate are seeking the emails, which they believe could show Lerner was working in concert with Obama administration officials to target conservative and Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status before the 2012 presidential election.
The missing emails extend from 2009 to 2011, a period when Lerner headed the IRS’s exempt-organizations division. The emails were lost when Lerner’s computer crashed, IRS officials said earlier this year.
In June, IRS Administrator John Koskinen told Congress the emails were probably lost for good because the disaster recovery tape holds onto the data for only six months. He said even if the IRS had sought the emails within the six-month period, it would have been a complicated and difficult process to produce them from the tapes.
The IRS also lost the emails of several other employees who worked under Lerner during that period.
Lerner, who retired from the IRS, has refused to be questioned by Congress.
She provided a statement at a March hearing, but then clammed up, following the advice of her lawyer to avoid self-incrimination.
The House, led by Republicans, voted in May to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.
Congressional aides said officials from the inspector general’s office said it could take weeks to get the recovered emails off the tape before sending them to lawmakers in Capitol Hill.
In all, investigators from the inspector general’s office combed through 744 disaster recovery tapes. They are not finished looking.
There are 250 million emails ion the tapes that will be reviewed. Officials said it is likely they will find missing emails from other IRS officials who worked under Lerner and who said they suffered computer crashes.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: They will find no smoking gun that definitively ties the White House to the targeting scandal. Those emails — if they ever existed — would have been destroyed long ago. It’s not likely that there is any kind of electronic or paper trail that leads back to the White House. These guys may not be the brightest bulbs in the room, but is there anyone in Washington stupid enough to leave bread crumbs for a prosecutor to follow?
What we are likely to find that’s new is more information on the evolution of the targeting policy and further illumination of Lois Lerner’s animus toward conservatives. Which Democratic senators were applying the most pressure to go after the Tea Party groups?
Most interesting to me is the possibility of finding emails that reference other documents that are still lost as a result of the computer crash. This kind of dot connecting is the best way to answer the big questions about the targeting program. Sometimes, someone who is copied on a particular email will have the “lost” document in their possession. So there is very little that is ever truly “lost” in that sense.
Oversight Committee Chairman Issa is a dogged investigator, but unless someone flips and turns on the administration — or their fellow IRS managers — it is doubtful the full truth will ever be known. Meanwhile, the IRS is openly pushing new rules for non-profits that would make just about any political activity by Tea Party groups illegal.
So, what the IRS couldn’t accomplish by illegally targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups, they will succeed in by pushing perfectly legal, perfectly draconian regulations.
Related: Ed Driscoll on Lerner’s email cache as The Ultimate Friday Afternoon Document Dump.