The Internal Revenue Service sees mid-September as the earliest point it will conclude reviewing the missing emails recovered from Lois Lerner, the protagonist in an ongoing scandal over what the agency has called inappropriate targeting of conservative organizations.
The IRS made the date known in a court filing ordered by a federal judge in response to a lawsuit by the conservative group Judicial Watch. That group sued the IRS in October 2013 for access to emails, including the now-recovered missing emails. Late Monday, Judicial Watch released the IRS’s court-ordered response.
In it, the IRS tells the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the recovered emails are in the possession of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which it notes is conducting a criminal probe into the lost Lerner emails.
The inspector general, said IRS lawyers, “will not honor any requests from the Service to obtain recovered emails at an earlier time.”
Lerner headed the Exempt Organizations division that admitted two years ago that it improperly subjected tea-party groups and conservative organizations to extra scrutiny when they sought tax-exempt status.
The IRS confirmed in the June 12 letter released Monday that Treasury’s inspector general for tax matters has reviewed and shared with the IRS in April about 6,400 forensically recovered emails.
Some of those were not in readable form, or just partially readable. However, since then many were converted into in readable forms and handed over on May 8 and June 1, the IRS said. No other emails have been shared by the Treasury inspector general, the IRS lawyers said.
Rather than release the recovered emails to Judicial Watch, which is suing for them under the Freedom of Information Act, the IRS said it is checking that there aren’t duplicate emails within the 6,400 already handed over by the inspector general. There was no estimate given for when the IRS expects to finish processing and reviewing forensically recovered emails.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, accused the IRS of continuing to give “false representations” and complained in a statement that the agency has chosen to review emails for duplication rather than their release in response to the lawsuit.
“Our legal team will continue pursuing all necessary and available legal options to hold the IRS accountable for its flagrant abuse of power,” insisted Fitton.
Tea party groups rallied Monday in support of Judicial Watch.
“At this point Judicial Watch is more trustworthy than the IRS,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, whose tax-exempt status was held up by the IRS for more than three years. “The IRS should let Judicial Watch search for the duplicates themselves and stop wasting hard earned tax payer dollars and everyone’s time.”