Lois Lerner has no records of two years of missing IRS emails in the targeting scandal — and her attorney said on Friday that "she didn't have anything to do with the destruction of her computer."
"She doesn't know what happened," her attorney, William Taylor III, told Politico
in an interview. "It's a little brazen to think she did this on purpose."
Lerner, the former IRS supervisor who oversaw applications from nonprofit groups seeking tax-exempt status, also did not target Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley for an audit, Taylor said.
"You don't refer people to the exempt organizations division," he said.
Taylor's interview was the first extensive comments on Lerner's role in the missing emails scandal since the Internal Revenue Service told the House Ways and Means Committee two weeks ago that a trove of documents were lost when his client's computer crashed in 2011.
The emails covered from 2009 through mid-2011, the period in which IRS officials said agents in Cincinnati began targeting tea party, conservative and religious groups for special scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt status.
The agency was found in May 2013 to have improperly targeted the groups. The screening generally involved unusual delays and detailed requests for information. Lerner, who retired last September because of the scandal, was found in contempt of Congress
for refusing to testify about it.
The revelations about the missing emails have created a maelstrom on Capitol Hill, with Republicans charging that the agency and that IRS Commissioner John Koskinen have not been forthcoming with Congress about the missing documents.
Republicans have further questioned Koskinen's objectivity in investigating the agency because of news reports that he has donated nearly $100,000 to Democrats
and the party's organizations over more than four decades.
Since citing her Fifth Amendment rights in refusing to testify before Congress for a second time in March, Lerner has spoken only rarely about the IRS case — and then only through Taylor.
He told Politico that his client intends to keep fighting the accusations.
"This is a so-called congressional investigation with no pretense of objectivity or bipartisanship," said Taylor, a founding partner of the Washington law firm Zuckerman Spaeder LLP. "Critics of Ms. Lerner and the IRS seize indiscriminately on small pieces of fact to claim they prove scandal."
He said that Lerner's division was doing their job in examining applications from conservative groups because their numbers were increasing.
Among the groups targeted were the Tea Party Patriots; True the Vote,
the voter's rights group based in Houston; and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, the nonprofit political group advised by Republican strategist Karl Rove.
"After Citizens United, groups identifying themselves with the tea party and other, more conservative causes dramatically increased the number of applications for (c)(4) status," Taylor said, referring to the 2010 Supreme Court decision that greatly eased restrictions on political spending.
Regarding the Grassley matter, emails released this week by the House Ways and Means Committee showed that Lerner suggested that the Republican senator be referred for a possible audit
in 2012 after receiving an invitation to speak at an event that was meant for Grassley.
The invitation indicated that the group, which was not identified in the emails, was paying for Grassley's wife to travel and attend the seminar. Grassley's wife, Barbara, is a lobbyist.
Lerner did not forward the invitation to Grassley's office, but immediately suggested a possible audit.
Taylor told Politico that Lerner was suggested that the group be examined, not Grassley.
He called accusations by Ways and Means "false" and "irresponsible."
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