Lois Lerner's Vendetta

Toxic partisanship revealed in new emails.

mediumHouse Republicans have released a Lois Lerner email exchange from November 2012 that “clearly demonstrates why Ms. Lerner not only targeted conservatives, but denied such groups their rights to due process and equal protection under the law,” wrote House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The emails were part of additional evidence the Committee turned over to the Justice Department (DOJ) to support a thorough investigation of the IRS’s criminal behavior. “While the Committee has not seen an evidence of a serious investigation by your Department, it is my sincere hope that in light of this new strong evidence that you immediately begin aggressively investigating this matter or appoint a special counsel. The failure to do so will only further erode public trust in not only the IRS, but the Department as well,” Camp warned.

The emails are indeed damning, and they were sent by Blackberry while Lerner was apparently traveling in Great Britain. Lerner begins an exchange with a personal associate who did not work at the IRS, during which the former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit makes no effort to hide her contempt.

Lerner begins this part of the exchange by saying she overheard some women say America was bankrupt and "going down the tubes.” The friend replies, “You should hear the whacko wing of the GOP. The US is through; too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end. The right wing radio shows are scary to listen to.” Lerner responds, “Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many assholes.” The friend replies, “And I’m talking about the hosts of the show. The callers are rabid.” Lerner responds, “So we don’t have to worry about aliens terRorists (sic). It’s our own crazies that will take us down.”

Camp is using this information to make the case that Lerner’s bias is self-apparent, and that the DOJ should get more involved in reviewing her, along with the IRS. He also reiterated his contention that Holder has yet to make a determined effort to do so. “Despite the serious investigation and evidence this Committee has undertaken into the IRS’s targeting of individuals for their beliefs, there is no indication that DOJ is taking this matter seriously,” he said in a statement. “In light of this new information, I hope DOJ will aggressively pursue this case and finally appoint a special counsel, so the full truth can be revealed and justice is served.”

In his letter to Holder, Camp reveals that the Committee also discovered that Lerner used her personal email account for official business “including confidential return information” and noted that the DOJ could use its resources to discover “whether there was unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information in violation of the law.” Camp further refers to an email dated February 22, 2012, in which Lerner contacted an IT professional about a “Virus on Home PC,’” further indicating  she kept work info on her home computer, “some of which may have been lost.” Lerner speculates that her computer may have been hacked “because my password was too simple,” raising additional concerns that taxpayer information may have been leaked.

“Leaked” may be too kind. In April, the House Oversight Committee released IRS emails revealing that staff members for the Committee's Democratic Ranking Member, Elijah Cummings (D-MD), had a number of exchanges with the agency in 2012 and 2013 regarding True the Vote, a conservative entity that focuses on the prevention of vote fraud. Because the IRS and Cummings' staff asked for nearly identical information from True the Vote, there is a strong indication there was a coordinated and improper effort to share confidential information. Prior to this revelation, Cummings claimed no such communication had occurred and he labeled the IRS investigation a “witch hunt.”

Lerner was directly involved in attempting to get True the Vote information to Cummings. In an email exchange with deputy Holly Paz, who has since been put on administrative leave, Lerner asked, “Did we find anything?” Paz said no, and Lerner replied, “Thanks, check tomorrow please.” The exchange occurred January 28, three days after Cummings staffers asked for info.

The latest revelations about Lerner follow an equally damning April 2013 exchange revealed earlier this month by the Committee. In that one, Lerner expresses the need to be “cautious about what we say in emails” because they might be part of a Congressional search. She then wonders about whether conversations contained by the OCS, the IRS’s internal messaging system, are “searchable.” "[Instant] messages are not set to automatically save as the standard; however the functionality exists within the software," an IRS official wrote back. "My general recommendation is to treat the conversation as if it could/is being saved somewhere, as it is possible for either party of the conversation to retain the information and have it turn up as part of an electronic search.”

"Perfect," Lerner replied.

And of course that revelation, indicating that IRS officials may have routinely communicated through a system that wasn’t archived, follows the incredulous assertion last month by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen that two years' worth of Lerner’s emails were “lost” because her computer crashed in 2011—and her hard drive had been thrown away. It was a revelation the agency withheld from the Committee for over a year, while it violates the Federal Records Act (FRA) requiring the IRS to preserve key documents. Since then, deputy associate chief counsel Thomas Kane told the Committee that some of those emails might be available on backup tapes.

Six questions posed by Barbara Rembiesa, president and founder of the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM), a group of IT experts, provided a roadmap for getting to the truth. The first one, "What happened to the IRS’s IT asset managers who appear to have disappeared at a key juncture?” is followed by a revelation that at least three of the IRS’s IT managers were indeed moved out of their positions around the time the May 2013 Inspector General’s (IG) report detailing the agency’s improper targeting tactics was released. Other probing questions concern the lack of documentation proving Lerner’s hard drive was destroyed, by whom, and IRS policies and procedures for document preservation and disaster-recovery.

The final question was prophetic: "Where are Lois Lerner’s Blackberry e-mails?” Rembiesa pressed that particular issue. “It is difficult to imagine that none of the emails in question were done on a mobile basis,” she said. “If so, there may be a freestanding stream of email records that would not be impacted by the Lerner hard drive loss.”

Two federal judges have made it clear IRS stonewalling on the issue is no longer acceptable. On July 10, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan gave the agency 30 days to submit a written explanation—under oath—explaining how it lost the emails. The ruling was a response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch. A day later, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton demanded to know what became of Lerner’s hard drive. If it was destroyed, he wants a sworn affidavit to that effect. He also wants information about the IG's investigation. Walton’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by True the Vote, who is also asking the judge to appoint an independent expert to investigate the lost emails. True the Vote’s lawyer, Cleta Mitchell, explained why. "We don't trust the IRS,” she told Walton.

Judicial Watch’s Jay Sekulow is calling for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor based on emails between Lerner and the DOJ regarding the targeting of conservative groups, as well as the reality that the DOJ investigation (such as it is) is being conducted by Barbara Bosserman. Bosserman is an attorney from the DOJ's Civil Right division, not the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division that handles public corruption. She has also been a campaign contributor to President Obama and the Democratic Party, presenting what Sekulow, as well as members of the Committee, consider a blatant “conflict of interest.” "There could be no more clear example of the need to appoint a truly objective and independent prosecutor than in this case,” Sekulow contends.

It’s not going to happen. It would be up to Eric Holder to do so, and the most transparently political Attorney General in more than forty years isn’t about to let it happen.

In the meantime, Lois Lerner remains in the eye of the storm. And what little information has been gleaned from those emails discovered so far reveals her to be every bit the partisan hack those victimized by her efforts have accused her of being.

The Committee should continue its investigation, but in a very measured way: it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Lerner’s emails exist, that they contain no more incriminating information, and that IRS officials who hid the revelation about their destruction are waiting to spring a politically-calculated trap aimed at blowing the investigation out of the water. If that possibility sound conspiratorial, Americans should ask themselves if a year ago, they could have imagined an Obama administration abetting human trafficking by allowing a wholesale invasion of our Southwest border, and shipping thousands of illegal aliens around the nation—in secret. When the one rule that governs the implementation of one’s agenda is “by any means necessary,” all things are possible.

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