U.S.

Thousands Of Lois Lerner's IRS Emails Might Be Unrecoverable

Thousands of Lois Lerner's emails are believed to be gone forever after the IRS announced it recycled the former official's crashed hard drive.

Thousands Of Lois Lerner's IRS Emails Might Be Unrecoverable
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Thousands of lost emails authored by former IRS official Lois Lerner might never be recovered, according to Senate Republicans. 

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah says the IRS told him Lerner's crashed hard drive "has been thrown away," meaning potential emails detailing the tax agency's targeting of conservative groups might be lost forever. (Via CNN)

Politico, which broke the news late Wednesday evening, says two sources citing IRS officials told them the same thing — adding the hard drive had been "recycled," as was standard procedure. 

Politico's Rachel Bade writes, "It may just be standard government procedure, but the revelation is significant."

That's because House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa subpoenaed that hard drive earlier this week in a broad request for all of Lerner's electronic devices.

Last week, IRS officials said Lerner's hard drive had been wiped after a computer crash in 2011, but lawmakers and outside observers believed tech experts would still be able to recover its contents once they got it from the IRS. (Via MSNBC)

Learning the agency actually disposed of that hard drive is likely to further enrage congressional Republicans, who already suspect the IRS' additional scrutiny of conservative groups was ordered by Obama administration officials. 

The timing of it all is critical. Lerner and other IRS agents were found to have improperly scrutinized conservative groups beginning in spring 2010. The IRS claims its IT experts could not recover emails sent between 2009 and 2011 from Lerner's crashed hard drive. And some Republicans believe if there is a smoking gun connecting the Obama administration to the scandal, it's buried somewhere in emails from that time frame. (Via CBS, NBC)

But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says there was no communication between the Obama administration and Lerner during that time frame. 

JAY CARNEY: "We did in fact do a search for all communications between Lois Lerner and any person within the executive office of the president during the period. ... We found zero emails. Sorry to disappoint." (Via Fox News)

Issa told Fox News he isn't buying that or the IRS' claims: ‚Äč"Official records, like the e-mails of a prominent official, don't just disappear without a trace unless that was the intention."

The IRS has retrieved about 24,000 of Lerner's emails. The now-retired IRS official invoked her Fifth Amendment rights when testifying before a congressional hearing on the matter last year. Republicans have since voted to hold her in contempt of Congress.