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House committee subpoenas head of IRS to testify on lost Lerner emails

A House committee probing the IRS targeting scandal has subpoenaed Commissioner John Koskinen to testify over the agency’s claims it cannot locate a trove of emails belonging to Lois Lerner, the former agency official at the heart of the scandal.

The IRS outraged congressional investigators Friday by saying it cannot find many of Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed during the summer of that year.

Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by Tea Party and other conservative groups.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he is feels the lost email claims are another example of the IRS’ “repeated empty promises of compliance with oversight.”

“I will not tolerate your continued obstruction and game-playing in response to the Committee’s investigation of the IRS targeting,” Issa, R-Calif., said in a letter accompanying the subpoena. “For too long, the IRS has promised to produce requested – and, later, subpoenaed – documents, only to respond later with excuses and inaction.”

Issa subpoenaed Koskinen to appear at a hearing on June 23.

The IRS was able to generate 24,000 Lerner emails from the 2009 to 2011 because Lerner had copied in other IRS employees. The agency said it pieced together the emails from the computers of 83 other IRS employees.

However, an untold number are gone. The office of Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said Friday that the missing emails are mainly ones to and from people outside the IRS, "such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, FEC, or Democrat offices."

The IRS said in a statement that it has gone to great lengths cooperating with congressional investigations, spending nearly $10 million to produce more than 750,000 documents.

Overall, the IRS said it is producing a total of 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering the period from 2009 to 2013.

The White House did not respond Monday to a request for comment on the report but responded to congressional Republicans’ complaints about missing Lerner emails.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said the Internal Revenue Service has engaged in a good faith effort to find the emails and called GOP criticism “far-fetched."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, asked by Fox News if he thought the administration would go so far as to delete the emails, replied,  “I do. I think you can't put anything past this administration.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is one of three congressional committees investigating the IRS over its handling of Tea Party applications from 2010 to 2012. The Justice Department and the IRS inspector general are also investigating.

The Associated Press contributed to this report