Rep. Jim Jordan accused the Internal Revenue Service of withholding the fact that IRS employee Lois Lerner's computer hard drive had crashed, saying Wednesday the agency only told congressional investigators that they'd lost Lerner's emails after it was forced to do so.
The Urbana Republican spoke at a hearing of a House panel investigating allegations that the IRS unfairly targeted conservative groups. He said the agency only confessed to losing emails sought by House oversight panels after the conservative organization Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency.
"My theory is this, Mr. Koskinen: You guys were never going to tell us until we caught you," Jordan, chairman of the subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs, said to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
At issue are the emails about the targeting of certain groups by the IRS sent and received by Lerner, who was the director of exempt organizations until she resigned in late 2013. Congressional investigators, which include the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, have subpoenaed Lerner's emails as part of the investigation. But Lerner's hard drive crashed in the summer of 2011, and the IRS has told investigators that they cannot recover emails that she had sent and received before then.
Koskinen had originally told investigators that he had been told the hard drive had been destroyed after IT workers determined its information was lost. But on July 17, IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane, who supervises the IRS's targeting scandal document production to Congress, told the committee that he was uncertain whether the tapes had been totally destroyed.
At a hearing Wednesday, Koskinen said he was unaware of whether the tapes included information that could be recovered or not. But he did say that an independent investigator had confirmed that investigators are reviewing the tapes.
"At this point, I have no information as to whether there's anything usable on those tapes," he said.
Koskinen, who has appeared before congressional investigators three times within the last month, said to date, the IRS has produced more than 960,000 pages of unredacted documents to the tax-writing committees, including Ways and Means, and more than 700,000 pages of redacted documents to Oversight and Government Reform. He said more than 250 IRS employees have spent more than 125,000 hours working on complying with the investigations -- at a cost of $10.75 million.
Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., the ranking member of the subcommittee, said the repeated hearings were meant to do little more than draw headlines and "publicly harangue federal agency heads."
"I believe these repeated hearings are both an abuse of authority and a dereliction of this committee's duties," he said.