The head of the IRS confirmed Wednesday that investigators looking into missing emails from ex-agency official Lois Lerner have found and are reviewing "backup tapes" -- despite earlier IRS claims that the tapes had been recycled.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, testifying before a House oversight subcommittee, stressed that he does not know "how they found them" or "whether there's anything on them or not." But he said the inspector general's office advised him the investigators are reviewing tapes to see if they contain any "recoverable" material.
The revelation is significant because the IRS claimed, when the agency first told Congress about the missing emails, that backup tapes "no longer exist because they have been recycled."
It is unclear whether the tapes in IG custody contain any Lerner emails, but Koskinen said investigators are now checking.
Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee first raised questions about the backup tapes on Monday, releasing a partial transcript from an interview with IRS official Thomas Kane. In it, Kane said "there is an issue" as to whether all the backup tapes were destroyed. Asked if they might still exist, he said he didn't know but "it's an issue that's being looked at."
Investigators in Congress and with the inspector general's office want to see those backup tapes because of the possibility they might contain emails that otherwise were lost in Lerner's apparent hard drive crash in 2011. Lerner is the former IRS official at the center of the controversy over agency targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status -- the agency's acknowledgement last month that years' worth of emails were lost has infuriated GOP investigators. Read the full story at FoxNews.com ...
By Patrick Howley, The Daily Caller
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen revealed Wednesday that he is not speaking to any potential witnesses in the missing-emails case while his agency’s inspector general conducts his own investigation.
Koskinen claimed that IRS inspector general J. Russell George told him “not to do any further investigations or interviews” with employees pertaining to hard drive crashes, and that’s why he did not voluntarily provide a key witness to congressional investigators. But Koskinen later admitted that the inspector general never told him not to cooperate with Congress.
The IRS has been nominally conducting its own internal investigation into the IRS conservative targeting scandal since 2013, but that now appears to be over.
Koskinen’s statement stunned Republican lawmakers at a morning House Oversight and Government Reform investigations subcommittee hearing chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan, who stated, “It has taken subpoenas to get people to talk.” Jordan called Koskinen’s statement “not accurate,” citing IRS prep sessions with employees who get interviewed by Congress to prove that the IRS is still talking to potential witnesses.
South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy grilled Koskinen on his remarks, asking him that if sexual harassment or racial discrimination occurred “you would wait until the IG investigated” before asking around about it.
“There is nothing about an ongoing IG investigation that would prevent you from doing your job,” Gowdy said. “There is nothing talismanic about an IG investigation…You could do a dual investigation.”
Koskinen claimed ignorance on several different fronts.
“I assume there’s a lot of ways that hard drives can get scratched,” Koskinen said, referring to Lois Lerner’s “scratched” hard drive, which he claimed he found out about this morning. Koskinen also said that he did not find out about Lerner’s computer crash in mid-February, when his underlings found out, but only learned about it months later.
“I haven’t talked to anybody about this. I haven’t asked anybody about it,” Koskinen said, referring to email backup tapes that might still exist, but which the IRS did not check after the computers of Lois Lerner and up to 20 other IRS employees central to the investigation allegedly crashed. “Nobody has any information about what was on those tapes or whether they were relevant…We have stopped asking people about it.”
Koskinen also said that he is “not aware” of any Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into his slowness in handing over Lerner’s emails. DOJ recently pledged to look into Koskinen’s conduct. Read more at The Daily Caller...