Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., requested answers by Feb. 24.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., requested answers by Feb. 24. J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

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Senator Demands IRS Explanation of Email Recovery

Inspector general reports 16,000 Lois Lerner documents that may be new.

Reacting to a fresh briefing from an inspector general, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday wrote the Internal Revenue commissioner demanding details on how the tax agency may have missed key emails requested by congressional investigators from former IRS Exempt Organizations division director Lois Lerner.

“I respectfully request your assistance in better understanding the IRS’ document retention and production process,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., wrote to John Koskinen after his staff was informed last week that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration since November had recovered a total of 80,000 missing IRS emails. That is “more than double the number that TIGTA investigators were estimating in November,” Johnson said.

The recovered files represent about 16,000 unique emails. TIGTA is now finished identifying missing emails and must compare them to emails already turned over by the IRS, Johnson said, but “it is possible that a large number of these emails have not yet been produced to Congress.”

The emails were sought over the past 18 months in multiple congressional and Treasury Department probes of how the division headed by Lerner in 2010-2012 until her retirement mishandled applications for tax-exempt status from primarily conservative nonprofit groups.

Johnson asked IRS to deliver by Feb. 24 explanations of how it produced the documents sought by Congress, its efforts to find emails from Lerner previously described as lost, “its efforts to recover the emails before TIGTA succeeded in doing so,” and the agency’s “communication with Lerner, her attorneys, the Department of Justice and the FBI on the matter.”

The letter also asked the IRS to detail its communications with TIGTA on the emails. And it requested any information on alleged sharing of 2,500 documents containing taxpayer information with the Executive Office of the President.

Asked for a response, an IRS spokesman told Government Executive, “As Commissioner Koskinen has stated, the IRS welcomes TIGTA's independent review and expert forensic analysis. Commissioner Koskinen has said for some time he would be pleased if additional Lois Lerner emails from this time frame could be found.”

The agency stressed that it is cooperating with all congressional and IG investigations. In June 2014, the IRS provided a detailed report on its efforts to find Lerner’s emails, producing more than 24,000 Lerner emails from the period prior to her hard drive crash in 2011.

Shortly after June, TIGTA began an investigation of the hard-drive crash and a search for additional emails. The IRS said it provided TIGTA with the disaster recovery tapes that had been initially used during the hard-drive “gap” period and then subsequently recycled, according to standard IRS procedure at the time.