Rep. Jason Chaffetz was even more perplexed than most Americans when he heard last week that the Internal Revenue Service had lost two years of Lois Lerner’s emails. He had been told “they’re there” by no less than IRS Commissioner John Koskinen himself.
Lerner directed the IRS’ tax-exempt division at a time tea-party groups faced additional scrutiny or delays in their applications. Lawmakers are now seeking her email communications to determine the extent of her involvement—or that of others—with this alleged harassment of conservative groups.
Chaffetz, R-Utah, asked Koskinen about this during a March hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Koskinen said he needed more time than the committee’s subpoena allowed to find Lerner’s emails, but they were, in fact, stored on computer servers. He did not mention any computer crash that could have resulted in the loss of those emails.
“We’re working very hard to get you the Lois Lerner emails,” Koskinen said. “They’re there.”
Only now, they don’t seem to be.
Following the IRS’ admission Friday that it lost some of the emails—from January 2009 to April 2011—Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., issued a subpoena for Koskinen to testify. Issa set Monday as the deadline for Koskinen.
“I will not tolerate your continued obstruction and game-playing in response to the committee’s investigation of the IRS targeting,” Issa wrote to Koskinen. “For too long, the IRS has promised to produce requested—and, later, subpoenaed—documents, only to respond later with excuses and inaction.”
Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, also was perplexed by the news Lerner’s emails had been “lost.”
“The fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS’s response to congressional inquiries,” said Camp in a statement.
Chaffetz had a notion he would never see these emails even during the hearing in March. He asked Koskinen repeatedly whether or not the IRS actually was going to comply with the subpoena.
“This commissioner has no intention of complying with this duly-issued subpoena,” Chaffetz said. “When you have a duly-issued subpoena you comply with it. It’s not an option.”