IRS Contradicts Itself On Lerner Hard Drive Testimony; Judge Sets Another Deadline For Agency To Get Its Story Straight

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former Director of Exempt Organizations

The IRS will have until August 22 to explain to a Federal judge how it is attempting to recover Lois Lerner’s missing emails, as well as its policy relating to destroying computer equipment. The judge set the deadline after documents obtained via a FOIA request revealed agency officials had presented conflicting testimony, under oath, about the extent to which Lerner’s hard drive had been damaged before it was allegedly destroyed.

The order, given by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, marks the next step in a long-brewing lawsuit against the IRS brought by nonprofit accountability organization Judicial Watch. From a report at The Daily Caller on the judge’s order:

Aaron Signor, an IRS technician that looked at Lerner’s hard drive in June 2011, said in IRS court filings that he saw no damage to the drive before sending it off to another IRS technician, leading some in the media to suggest that the lost emails scandal is basically over. But Signor’s statement, issued in response to the Judicial Watch lawsuit, does not jibe with sworn congressional testimony.

The Daily Caller reported that Lerner’s hard drive was “scratched” and then “shredded,” according to a court filing the IRS made to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The IRS technology official who served as the source of the “scratched” and “shredded” revelation is believed to have looked at the hard drive after Signor.

Sullivan’s order seems to have been motivated by the obvious contradiction. Judicial Watch said that Sullivan made the order because the IRS’ new court filing featuring Signor’s statement was a “joke.”

You can read the rest of that report here.

We’ve been here before. Sullivan had initially ordered the IRS to submit a similar statement, under oath, in July, giving the agency 30 days to explain how Lerner’s emails turned up missing. In a separate lawsuit brought by Texas conservative nonprofit True the Vote, another Federal judge decided earlier this month that the IRS would not be forced (in that case, at least) to submit to an independent forensic investigation searching for the missing emails.

Meanwhile, investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson revealed today that another Obama Administration official had requested an HHS spokesman to delete an email she had sent pertaining (it seems) to the botched rollout of the Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov. It’s against the law for Federal officials to delete their work emails, which are instead supposed to be archived and printed.

From Attkisson’s website:

An email obtained by Congress shows the top official for Healthcare.gov at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Department of Health and Human Services, Marilyn Tavenner, instructed the agency’s top spokesman to “Please delete this email.”

The instruction appears significant for several reasons: First, the email to be deleted included an exchange between key White House officials and CMS  officials. Second, the email was dated October 5, 2013, five days into the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov. Third, federal law requires federal officials to retain copies of –not delete– email exchanges. And fourth, the document to be deleted is covered under Congressional subpoena as well as longstanding Freedom of Information requests made by members of the media (including me).

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.