WASHINGTON — Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen Tuesday with questions raised by new information that has emerged about missing e-mails from former IRS official Lois Lerner.
Senator Johnson’s staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) learned last week that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), an independent investigative agency, has recovered as many as 80,000 missing IRS e-mails, more than double the number that TIGTA investigators were estimating in November. The recovered files represent about 16,000 unique e-mails, TIGTA investigators told the senator’s staff. TIGTA is now finished identifying missing emails and must compare them to e-mails already turned over by the IRS, but “it is possible that a large number of these e-mails have not yet been produced to Congress,” Johnson’s letter said.
The IRS became embroiled in controversy after Lerner, who oversaw the agency’s office in charge of administering nonprofit status to groups, admitted that the IRS gave heightened scrutiny to conservative groups. Members of Congress, investigating whether a powerful federal agency discriminated among citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, were told by the IRS in 2014 that it had lost e-mails sent or received by Lerner over a period of more than two years and that it had failed to tell Congress about the loss in a timely way. The IRS said it went to “great lengths” to recover the emails but could not do so.
The revelation from TIGTA means that the e-mails the IRS could not originally recover off backup tapes may now be found. “Accordingly,” reads Senator Johnson’s letter, “I respectfully request your assistance in better understanding the IRS’s document retention and production process.” The senator asks the IRS to explain, among other things:
- How it produced documents sought by Congress in investigating IRS targeting of groups based on their beliefs.
- Its efforts to provide to Congress e-mails to or from Lerner that it said were lost.
- Its efforts to recover the emails before TIGTA succeeded in doing so.
- Its communication with Lerner, her attorneys, the Department of Justice and the FBI on the matter.
A copy of the letter is available here.