The top Republican on one of the House committees investigating the IRS targeting scandal reacted furiously late Wednesday to a report that ex-IRS official Lois Lerner's hard drive had been recycled, making it likely that many emails sent to and from Lerner prior to the summer of 2011 will never be recovered.
The Politico report cited two anonymous sources, as well as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who confirmed that the Senate Finance Committee had been told that the hard drive had been discarded.
"If the IRS truly got rid of evidence in a way that violated the Federal Records Act and ensured the FBI never got a crack at recovering files from an official claiming a Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, this is proof their whole line about 'losing' e-mails in the targeting scandal was just one more attempted deception," House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in a statement. "Official records, like the e-mails of a prominent official, don't just disappear without a trace unless that was the intention."
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.
Congressional investigators have been probing the agency for more than a year. However, IRS officials did not inform Congress of the lost emails until June 13.
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have charged that the agency knew as early as February that the emails were missing. They have also said that email records of six IRS employees believed to be involved in the scandal in addition to Lerner have not been found.
The missing emails are mainly messages to and from people outside the IRS, including the White House and other major offices and departments.
The IRS was able to recover 24,000 Lerner emails from 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.
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