IRS can’t get its story straight: Official says he’s not sure whether email backup tapes were destroyed

 Tax agency official says he's unsure whether backup tapes with Lerner emails were destroyed

The Internal Revenue Service just can’t get its story straight as to whether or not Lois Lerner’s emails are still recoverable. Commissioner John Koskinen told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the emails were lost and could not be recovered before Lerner’s attorney suggested that she may still have hardcopies of some of her records.

Now, according to testimony released by the committee, the IRS official who complies with document request from Congress says that the backup tapes on which Lerner emails are stored could still be lying around somewhere:

IRS deputy associate chief counsel Thomas Kane, who oversees the tax-collecting agency’s document production to Congress, told the House Oversight Committee in private testimony that he’s now unsure if the correspondence is backed up somewhere else.

“I don’t know if there is a backup tape with information on it or there isn’t,” he told investigators Thursday, according to a partial transcript released by Oversight Republicans on Monday.
“There is an issue as to whether or not there is a — that all of the backup recovery tapes were destroyed on the six-month retention schedule,” he said.

Kane told investigators that the existence of the backup tapes is part of a separate investigation being conducted by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the agency’s watchdog.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) noted in a statement that the IRS tried to keep Kane away from investigators, only relenting when a subpoena was issued. He also trained his fire on Koskinen, who has used up any good will he had with House committees looking into the IRS scandal.

“Finding out that IRS Commissioner Koskinen jumped the gun in reporting to Congress that the IRS ‘confirmed’ all back-up tapes had been destroyed makes me even more suspicious of why he waited months to inform Congress about lost Lois Lerner e-mails,” said Issa. “Commissioner Koskinen has repeatedly blamed the reporting delay on an effort to be sure what he said was correct, we now know that wasn’t the case.”

Kane also told committee investigators that the email losses caused by hard drive crashes could be more widespread than previous acknowledged, involving the records of “less than 20 officials. That’s obviously far more than the original seven officials, including Lerner.

FBI Director James Comey told a House subcommittee last week that the IRS never notified. The nation’s top law enforcement agency learned about the missing emails from news reports. Keep in mind, by the way, that record preservation is not just a suggestion, its the law.

If these were taxpayer records, the IRS would move Heaven and Earth to make sure every “i” is dotted and “t” is crossed. Can’t find your 1099? Oh, don’t worry, the IRS can get that for you.

One cannot simply dismiss this as an example of bureaucratic oversight or convenient hardware problems. That’s just not believable. And Koskinen, who has been nothing short of arrogant and dismissive to congressional inquiries, has a huge target on his back right now.

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