Darrell Issa: Lerner Definitely 'Broke Some Laws' on Emails

Sunday, 29 Jun 2014 11:57 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Former IRS official Lois Lerner had 30 years of experience and knew under the Federal Records Act that she had an obligation to preserve her copies of her emails, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa says, and "she broke some laws."

Investigators will never know if Lerner crashed her own computer, the California Republican told CNN's Candy Crowley on "State of the Union" Sunday, but the fact remains that the computer's hard drive has been destroyed and years worth of emails are gone and there is no documentation to prove they exist.

So far, around 20,000 of the emails have been retrieved through people she sent them out to and Issa said that investigators know from the discovery they got from those emails that Lerner broke regulations.

Lerner, said Issa, sent "1.1 million tax records over to the Department of Justice" many "including inappropriate or actually illegal disclosures, on behalf of conservative groups."

But Issa said nobody on his committee said Lerner deliberately crashed her own computer. Still, she knew the documents needed to be preserve.

"[This] is the policy that she had to know," said Issa. "It is pretty hard to believe that there aren't paper copies. So do I believe that she printed to paper? Yes. She's an attorney of longstanding and it's kind of hard to believe that you wouldn't cover with your own paper copies."

And while Lerner's attorney, William Taylor, who was also on the Sunday show, has said there are no paper records of those emails, Issa once again accused Taylor of lying.

"Her attorney has said things that are not correct, or disingenuous or outright lied a number of times," said Issa, describing Taylor as being an attorney who is trying to get his client off the hook.

"Ultimately what we know is the archivist said that the IRS failed to do what they were supposed to do with informing, failed to properly keep documents," Issa told Crowley. "That has very little to do with the fundamental problem, which is Lois Lerner's unit headed by Lois Lerner and directed by Lois Lerner unfairly targeted and abused conservative groups for what they believed."

And while Crowley demanded that Issa point to specific emails proving Lerner was behind the targeting accusations, he reminded her that a 375-page report shows that the IRS agents were targeting conservative groups.

In addition, Issa pointed out the attempted targeting of Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. Lerner mistakenly got an invitation meant for him that said his wife would also be paid to travel and attend a seminar.

Lerner commented in an email to a colleague that the organizers of the event "inappropriately offered to pay" for Grassley's wife, and suggested Grassley be referred for a possible audit, which the colleague shot down.

"Instead of forwarding it on to the senator, what does she do? She tries to turn it into a possible criminal prosecution, based on an invitation from a group," Issa told Crowley.

Issa said Lerner, as the head of the federal election commission's enforcement division, should have been able to answer any questions about the invitation herself, not order an investigation.

Meanwhile, Issa said that his committee has not looked for a direct link between the White House, except that "the White House is not cooperating and it continues to not cooperate."

And the reality, said Issa, is that his committee has prepared criminal charges and referred them to the attorney general's division.

"Ultimately we're trying to get the IRS to have safeguards so this doesn't happen again, and get the IRS and the rest of the government to keep records at least as long as they would have you keep them when they ask you questions," he said.

Lerner's attorney, Taylor, said Sunday that there was no wrongdoing when it comes to the emails.

"She walked into the office one day and her screen went blue," said Taylor. "She asked for help in restoring it and the IT people came and attempted to restore it."

And, he said, nobody was trying to keep the emails hidden, and Lerner "was as upset as anybody else was about the loss of the e-mails and the other documents which were on there."

The emails, said Taylor, were "way before the time in which Congressman Issa and his colleagues are suggesting that there was unfairness or anything like it at the IRS … you can see why it's convenient to say there's a computer crash and therefore there must be something nefarious going on."

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