WASHINGTON — The group suing the Internal Revenue Service in federal court to obtain the emails of former division head Lois Lerner celebrated Thursday a judge’s decision to open an inquiry into the matter.
“In an extraordinary step, U. S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan has launched an independent inquiry into the issue of the missing emails associated with former IRS official Lois Lerner,” Tom Fitton, president of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, said in a statement. “Previously, Judge Sullivan ordered the IRS to produce sworn declarations about the IRS email issue by August 11. Today’s order confirms Judicial Watch’s read of this week’s IRS’ filings that treated as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order.”
In filings with Judge Sullivan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier in the week, the IRS repeated what its top officials have told congressional investigators, that Lerner’s hard drive crashed and was later erased after it was determined that no information could be retrieved.
The tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee has interviewed some IRS tech officials who worked on Lerner’s hard drive. But the panel has not made public transcripts of those interviews. Sullivan now apparently wants to look for additional answers too.
Lerner headed the Exempt Organizations division of the IRS, and has been at the center of scandal since admitting last year in a staged setting that the agency had inappropriately subjected conservative and tea party organizations to extra scrutiny when determining if they were to get tax-exempt status.
Adding to her woes, Lerner went before the House Committee on Government Oversight, declared she had done no wrong, then invoked her constitutional protections against having to testify. The Republican-led House of Representatives earlier this year found her in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify under oath, determining that she waved her protections when she made a statement of innocence.