Federal Judge Orders IRS to Explain How it Lost Lerner Emails

Thursday, 10 Jul 2014 06:45 PM

By Cathy Burke

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A federal judge has ordered the IRS to explain how it lost two years' worth of emails from a former official at the center of a tea party targeting scandal – and said he'd assign a magistrate to determine if the data can be recovered from other sources, reports say.

U.S. District Judge Emmitt Sullivan gave the tax agency until Aug. 10 to submit a sworn declaration about Lois Lerner's missing emails; the IRS has said the information was lost when Lerner's computer crashed in 2011.

Sullivan also said he'd assign federal Magistrate John Facciola to look into other ways to obtain the missing records from other sources.

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The ruling came Thursday as part of a Judicial Watch lawsuit against the agency; the conservative group complains the IRS never disclosed it was missing Lerner's emails from 2009-2011.

The Hill reported Sullivan's order may be a compromise allowing Judicial Watch to get the information it's requested under the Freedom of Information Act without further court action. 

The group wanted the court to force IRS officials, if necessary, to testify about the missing data.

But it's unclear how much more data can be unearthed, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

The IRS has insisted it's reconstructed some 24,000 of Lerner's emails from other sources, including other workers' computers.

Lerner's computer hard drive apparently was recycled and shredded under a standard federal contract.

According to The Hill, Department of Justice lawyer Geoffrey Klimas argued the federal court should only weigh in after the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration finishes its probe into the missing emails.

Sullivan said the IRS's declaration next month should outline how that investigation affects the court proceedings.

Afterward, Judicial Watch claimed victory, The Hill reported.

"In our view, there has been a cover-up going on," said Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch's president, after the hearing. "The government needs to be transparent. And part of transparency is telling people when there's a problem."

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