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Two Federal Judges Demand Answers on “Lost” Lerner Emails from IRS “Under Oath”

“I can lock people up, and I don’t have a problem doing that”

congress-focuses-on-irs-delay-in-disclosing-groups-scrutiny-1The IRS has been attempting to mitigate and obstruct the truth about Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails.

The past two days in federal court have made that much more difficult for the IRS.

Thus far IRS Commissioner Koskinen has testified before Congress that he has been advised (because he wasn’t there when it happened) that the IRS did the best it could to recover Lerner’s emails, that her hard drive has been recycled, and that the Treasury IG is looking into all of this.  In other words, nothing to see here; move along; we’ve got this covered.

When DOJ lawyers tried to make these same arguments in open court, two different federal judges weren’t buying it.

In the last two days, two different federal judges in two separate cases have ordered the IRS to provide information from the “appropriate” IRS official “under oath.”  In fact, in yesterday’s hearing the judge reiterated at least three times that this declaration needed to be “under oath” and then noted to the DOJ attorneys that he had done so at least three times.

Today’s order demands the IRS declare five simple but critically important things: 1) What are the IG’s expertise in highly-technical forensic data recovery; 2) What were the expertise of the original IRS technicians who supposedly attempted to recover the data back in 2011; 3) When is the IG supposed to complete its “investigation;” 4) What is the serial number of Lerner’s crashed hard drive; and 5) Where is that hard drive and why can’t it be preserved?

Critically, the judge’s order states that it must be “signed under oath by an appropriate individual with firsthand knowledge.”  In other words, the judge doesn’t want to hear the testimony and excuses of the Commissioner who wasn’t there; he wants answers from the people who actually were involved.

Even more importantly, the IRS has until next Friday, July 18th, to comply.

Yesterday’s order added more information that the IRS is required to declare “under oath”: 1) the facts and circumstances surrounding Lerner’s computer “crash” (the court’s quotes, not mine); 2) information about efforts taken to recover the lost data; and 3) more information about this supposed IG investigation.  The IRS has more time (30 days) to comply with this order, but it will still provide more important information “under oath” about these missing emails.

I was present at both hearings, and one thing was crystal clear from both judges: they are taking this matter in general, and the “lost” emails specifically, very seriously and expect this Administration to do the same.

The IRS cannot continue to stonewall and obstruct the truth before these federal judges.  As the judge at today’s hearing stated, “I can lock people up, and I don’t have a problem doing that.”

These cases against the IRS, including ours at the ACLJ on behalf of 41 targeted groups from 22 states, are beginning to move forward.  We can expect to see some pretty significant developments over the next month as we press forward for the truth and accountability.

Matthew Clark is Associate Counsel for Government Affairs and Media Advocacy with the ACLJ. A lifelong citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he lives with his wife and three boys in Northern Virginia. Follow Matthew Clark: @_MatthewClark.

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