We have repeatedly written about the rampant corruption within the Obama Administration’s IRS and the apparent belief of IRS officials that the law simply does not apply to their conduct.
Information revealed yesterday by the head of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) confirms that while the IRS has been engaged, for months, in a game of hide-and-seek with regard to documents concerning its targeting of conservative organizations, many of those documents may never be found because they were in fact destroyed by the agency in the midst of the ongoing congressional investigation into the targeting scandal.
J. Russell George told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Thursday morning that TIGTA has confirmed the IRS’s destruction of 422 backup tapes containing up to 24,000 emails in March 2014. According to George’s testimony, those tapes likely contained emails from 2010 and 2011 to and from Lois Lerner, the IRS official formerly in charge of the Exempt Organizations office at the heart of the targeting scandal. At the time of the destruction, the congressional investigation was already underway, with a clear order requiring the IRS to preserve those emails having been issued ten months earlier and a congressional subpoena in place for seven months.
As if defiance of a congressional preservation order and subpoena are not sufficiently alarming, the destruction occurred just one month after the IRS’s February 2014 discovery of the loss of an untold number of Lerner’s emails as a result of a computer crash in 2011 (which, it turns out, may not have been purely accidental, as it was “more than likely . . . due to an impact of some sort”). Thus, at the precise time these emails were at the front and center of the scandal investigation, the IRS likely still had many of them but failed to take the necessary steps to ensure their preservation and production to Congress.
The TIGTA testimony further highlighted the depth of the agency’s apathy and disregard for its legal obligations by revealing that “the IRS never looked at five of the six potential places where the emails might have been stored -- including the server”!! This type of egregious omission appears to be standard operating procedure for the IRS when confronted with a request for these emails, as we (like others) have encountered precisely the same issue in our federal FOIA lawsuit against the IRS. Despite the recovery of tens of thousands of Lerner emails by TIGTA last November, the IRS, contrary to its legal obligations, did not even bother to search those before responding to our client’s FOIA request.
While the IRS no doubt believes it can simply attribute the destruction of these emails to low level employees uninformed about the preservation requirements, it is time to put an end to this broken record of a narrative. This is the same claim the government made in its attempt to justify its unconstitutional targeting of conservatives. It deserved no credence then, and it deserves none now. Whether their lawless conduct is intentional or merely a result of gross negligence, it is time to hold the appropriate IRS officials—those responsible for oversight and direction of the agency’s actions—accountable.
The ACLJ is actively pursuing two federal lawsuits against the IRS—one based on its unconstitutional targeting of conservative organizations, including our 38 clients from 22 different states, the other based on the IRS’s failure to comply with its obligations under the federal Freedom of Information Act. In fact, the IRS has been ordered in the FOIA suit to turn over the documents it withheld so that the court can undertake its own independent review of them. We are working diligently to bring to light the IRS’s flagrant abuses of power and to ensure it is answerable for its corruption.
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