A criminal investigation into IRS officials involved in complying with congressional subpoenas for documents related to the treatment of Tea Party non-profit applications is in the offing by the Justice Department now that 33,000 e-mails – and possibly more – have been produced years after congressional investigators requested them.
After just two weeks on the job, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Office of Inspector General found back-up tapes containing almost 33,000 e-mail records related to the IRS targeting scandal against Tea Party groups that IRS officials said had been destroyed in sworn testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as far back as May, 2013.
These past and present officials include former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin and current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
The “discovery” of the lost e-mails between Lois Lerner and other IRS officials has injected new life into the long-running investigation by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives into the IRS treatment of tax-exempt applications filed by conservative political groups leading up to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Lerner, a long time Democrat party operative, testified under oath that she broke no laws and was innocent of all charges before invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify before the committee. The House voted to hold her in contempt of Congress.
Lerner has been accused of slow-walking non-profit tax applications filed by Tea Party and other conservative groups through the IRS approval process holding them up for years with repeated requests that lengthy questionnaires be completed and reviewed before approval could be considered in gross violation of IRS approval guidelines.
Subsequent to her appearance before Congress, Lerner resigned from her post at the IRS with a full pension.
When asked about the discovery of back-up tapes containing Lerner’s e-mails and their production to Congress pursuant to numerous subpoenas issued by Congress to the IRS, IRS data managers said the tapes have been available for inspection since the scandal broke but that agency higher ups never asked for them.
Republicans pointed to the “new evidence” as evidence that the IRS has been acting in bad faith with investigators conducting the congressional probe. Reporting for Reuters news service, Emily Stephenson writes about Congressional reaction quoted here:
“I’ve got to tell you, we have been patient, we have asked, we have issued subpoenas, we have held hearings,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who leads the House Oversight Committee.
“It’s just shocking to me that you start (looking), two weeks later you’re able to find the emails,” he told Camus, referring to the Treasury inspector general’s office locating the emails after the IRS said it could not find them. The IRS is part of the Treasury Department.