Republicans are still pressing the Obama administration to find missing emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner and six other IRS personnel, but the White House insists they are not recoverable. Furthermore, a White House spokesman said Wednesday that there were no emails ever exchanged between Lerner -- the former official at the heart of the scandal over the IRS's inappropriate targeting of political groups -- and President Obama's office.
"As the IRS said, I.T. professionals worked to restore Lerner's hard drive and were unable to do so," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "Nonetheless, the IRS has or will produce 24,000 Lerner emails from this 2009-2011 time period, largely from the files of the other 82 individuals... They are engaging in an effort to find e-mails in the absence of being able to restore the hard drive."
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., requested Lerner's emails to and from the White House, but Carney said, "We found zero emails -- sorry to disappoint -- between Lois Lerner and anyone within the [Executive Office of the President] during this period."
There were three emails where a third party emailed both Lerner and EOP officials, he said. One was a spam email and two others were from a person seeking tax assistance; all three have been turned over to Congress.
In May 2013, Lerner was the first IRS official to publicly admit that the IRS, starting in 2010, had unfairly scrutinized groups for their political activity. She was compelled to testify before Congress but refused to answer questions about the matter after declaring she had done nothing wrong. The House consequently voted last month to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.
The IRS told Congress last week that it could not produce all of Lerner's emails because her computer crashed in 2011. This week Camp and Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., who chairs the Ways and Means Committee's oversight subpanel, announced that the IRS also lost emails from six other IRS personnel, including Nikole Flax, who served as the chief of staff to IRS deputy commissioner Steven Miller.
"It is a little too convenient that right in middle of Lerner orchestrating the targeting of conservative groups, poof, her emails disappear," Camp and Boustany said in a statement Wednesday. "It is even harder to believe that six other IRS employees, including Nikole Flax, also had their systems go down and supposedly permanently deleted critical details that could help us prove what was really happening at the IRS. We need to know where these computers are, who looked at them and when."
On Monday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., subpoenaed IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to appear before his committee on June 23.
On Fox News on Wednesday, Issa expressed skepticism over the administration's account of the missing emails.
"These systems are designed not to be lost... We believe these emails could be found unless, in fact, the IRS and Lois Lerner have made sure they can't be found," Issa said.
"You know, I think back to the old black-and-white series with Lucille Ball when Ricky Ricardo would say, 'Lucy, you've got some 'splaining to do.' The IRS has some 'splaining to do."