Via FoxNews, IRS lawyers have dropped a bombshell admission that Lois Lerner’s Blackberry was intentionally wiped and destroyed after the start of the Congressional probe into the activities of her division:
Lois Lerner’s Blackberry was intentionally destroyed after Congress had begun its probe into IRS targeting of conservative groups, a senior IRS lawyer acknowledged in a sworn declaration.
Thomas Kane, Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel for the IRS, wrote in the declaration, part of a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch against the IRS, that the Blackberry was “removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.”
That date – June 2012 – is significant because by that time, ex-IRS official Lerner had already been summoned before congressional staffers who interviewed her about reports of the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.
This is a fairly astonishing admission and it’s difficult to see how this does not constitute textbook Obstruction of Justice under 18 USC 1505 (and possibly other statutes):
Whoever, with intent to avoid, evade, prevent, or obstruct compliance, in whole or in part, with any civil investigative demand duly and properly made under the Antitrust Civil Process Act, willfully withholds, misrepresents, removes from any place, conceals, covers up, destroys, mutilates, alters, or by other means falsifies any documentary material, answers to written interrogatories, or oral testimony, which is the subject of such demand; or attempts to do so or solicits another to do so; or
Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—
Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.
Caselaw on obstruction of justice indicates that it does not matter whether the emails in question were in fact held on a central server, you can be dinged for obstruction for the attempt to destroy the information if you delete mails in, say, your Outlook inbox even though your company keeps all emails on a central server. It is intended to protect against the eventuality where (as here) the emails in question mysteriously go missing from the central server or the person responsible for retrieving them claims that it would be impossible or impractical to do so. Not to mention the fact that you don’t get a free pass for obstruction of justice just because you’re not smart enough to do it properly.
Every new revelation in this case points to an aggressive effort on the part of the IRS to improperly and possibly illegally hide evidence from the public as to its activities. It is past time for someone at DOJ to show as much interest in the proper administration of justice with respect to the IRS as they did to Arthur Andersen.