At some point, it’s hard not to laugh.
Last Friday afternoon, the Obama administration’s IRS claimed that it could not provide copies of former top IRS official Lois Lerner’s complete email records because of – get this – a “computer crash.”
But Lerner didn’t lose all of her emails, mind you, just the most potentially incriminating messages, for example, any emails to the White House, Democrats in Congress, the Department of Justice, and other external entities, during the most potentially incriminating timeframe -- from 2009 to early 2011, when the IRS targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups was at its peak.
How gullible does the Obama administration think we are?
Any American with even a rudimentary knowledge of how electronic messages are sent knows that email records are largely impervious to anything but the most widespread and systematic computer crashes.
Further, we also know that computer crashes are focused events. When a computer “crashes” it’s not able to delete incriminating emails from specific time periods while leaving all others intact.
Indeed, in the aftermath of this absurd assertion, the response from experts was overwhelming: The story makes no sense. IRS emails were not permanently stored on Lois Lerner’s computer alone (of course) but on servers that preserve records. They would remain there even if Lerner decided to do something outrageous like light her computer on fire in an effort to hide her criminal activity.
Moreover, the emails likely also exist on the computers (and in the servers) of any agency she sent an email to. So, if she sent email to the White House, those emails would be in White House servers and on White House computers. If she sent an email to the Department of Justice, the same would be true.
The emails that have been "lost" undoubtedly exist. So what’s actually happening?
The plausible explanation is that the IRS believes the contents of the emails are actually more damaging to its institutional interests than the scandal of hiding or deleting them. This behavior leads to the conclusion that the content of the emails must be so damning that it’s best to just not produce them. In other words, the truth is more dangerous than the cover-up.
This precisely flips the standard Washington narrative, where the cover-up is typically worse than the underlying scandal, where government officials will sometimes go so far as to break the law to conceal political mere political or personal embarrassments.
Here, the cover-up is so brazen, so open and obvious, that it makes sense only if the underlying offense is of overriding seriousness.
And there’s every indication that it was serious. After all, there’s already evidence – even before we know the full extent of Obama administration wrongdoing – that the IRS’s unlawful targeting scheme could have had a material effect on the outcome of the 2012 election. And we already know that the president’s public condemnations of Tea Party organizing perfectly coincided with the IRS onslaught.
What else is hidden the in “lost” emails?
At the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), we intend to find out. We will be focusing on not just the IRS but also every single potential recipient of Lerner’s emails, demanding that they preserve and produce all relevant records. As I’ve state before, we’re in federal court suing the IRS and key IRS officials on behalf of 41 targeted groups from 22 states, and during the course of that lawsuit, we intend to get answers.
The IRS cannot hide forever. It cannot maintain obvious fictions. And it does not control the inboxes and servers of every federal agency. The truth will come out.
We are living at a dangerous time for American democracy. One of the United States’ most powerful government agencies – the IRS – has decided that it is above the law and that its ideological interests override its commitment to the Constitution. It is so brazen in its commitment to the Obama administration that it will peddle obviously implausible stories to conceal and continue its wrongdoing.
That’s right, continue. It still hasn’t approved nine of our clients’ applications for tax-exempt status, in some cases that’s almost five years after the conservative groups applied for approval.
Ideology trumps the Constitution. That appears to be the Obama administration’s political doctrine in four simple words. But when ideology confronts the Constitution in federal court, the Constitution typically wins.
There will be a reckoning. Computer crashes may delay justice, but they cannot and will not deny justice.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He also serves as a member of President Trump’s legal team. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow.