Watchdog group calls for criminal inquiry of IRS for Obama-era abuses

by WorldTribune Staff, July 19, 2017

Government watchdog group Judicial Watch, citing a new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said the Obama-era IRS’s practice of “losing” or “destroying” documents demands a criminal investigation.

House Republicans in April called on the Justice Department to reopen the investigation into Lois Lerner and the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups.

“Recently, the IRS reported that, when responding to requests from external parties, it had determined that some documents had been lost or destroyed.”

The July 13 Treasury IG report noted that “The IRS is required by federal law to retain and produce federal records when requested through appropriate legal means. Recently, the IRS reported that, when responding to requests from external parties, it had determined that some documents had been lost or destroyed.”

In April, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS to obtain records relating to the agency’s “preservation and/or retention” of the email records of officials who have left the agency since January 2010.

Among the issues the IRS was asked to respond to were:

  • In June 2014, the IRS claimed to have “lost” responsive emails belonging to Lerner and other IRS officials.
  • In July 2014 Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered the IRS to submit to the court a written declaration under oath about what happened to Lerner’s “lost” emails. The sworn declarations proved to be less than forthcoming.
  • In August 2014, Department of Justice attorneys for the IRS finally admitted Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The IRS’ attorneys also disclosed that Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) was looking at several of these backup tapes.
  • In November 2014, the IRS told the court it had failed to search any of the IRS standard computer systems for the “missing” emails of Lerner and other IRS officials.
  • On February 26, 2015, TIGTA officials testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it had received 744 backup tapes containing emails sent and received by Lerner.  This testimony showed that the IRS had falsely represented to both Congress, Judge Sullivan, and Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails were irretrievably lost. The testimony also revealed that IRS officials responsible for responding to the document requests never asked for the backup tapes and that 424 backup tapes containing Lerner’s emails had been destroyed during the pendency of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit and Congressional investigations.
  • In June 2015, Judicial Watch forced the IRS to admit in a court filing that it was in possession of 6,400 “newly discovered” Lerner emails. Judge Emmet Sullivan’s ordered the IRS to provide answers on the status of the Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost. Judicial Watch raised questions about the IRS’ handling of the missing emails issue in a court filing, demanding answers about Lerner’s emails that had been recovered from the backup tapes.

The July 13 Treasury report “is shocking but not surprising,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “We have long battled the IRS in court over its obstruction in responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests about Obama era IRS abuses. Our attorneys will review this report to assess whether we should seek relief and accountability from the courts.”

Fitton added: “In the meantime, President Trump should finally fire IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and direct the Justice Department to reopen its criminal inquiry into the Obama IRS abuses and cover-ups.”

Koskinen was nearly impeached in September 2016 for misleading Congress on Lerner’s emails.

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