A reader called The Oklahoman on Monday, angry about her dealings with the Internal Revenue Service. She had gone online to get a copy of her 2014 tax return, needed as part of a college financial aid application, and was notified that she hadn’t filed a return this spring.
That was incorrect. A phone call to her bank confirmed that the IRS had managed to cash the tax payment the woman included with her filing in April. The agency had simply lost her return.
So yes, it’s certainly possible that documents and the like can go missing at the sprawling government agency. But officials at IRS must believe Americans are dolts if they think the public buys the story that two years of emails involving former IRS bigwig Lois Lerner have gone up in smoke.
Lerner is the former head of the division that vetted tax documents of nonprofit groups — and made life especially miserable for conservative groups. Documents that included the words “tea party” or “patriot” were singled out for extra scrutiny of the sort that left these groups waiting and waiting and waiting for their nonprofit status to be approved.
Lerner went before Congress last year, after this scandal broke, to say she’d done nothing wrong and broken no laws. Then she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and then did the same again in March of this year. So we’ve heard nothing from her.
Republicans in Congress haven’t forgotten this disgraceful misconduct, however, and are trying to further delve into it, in part by reviewing email correspondence among Lerner and others within the IRS.
But last week, the agency informed Congress that it couldn’t find many of Lerner’s emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed that summer. Gee, what are the odds of that occurring — especially since the targeting of conservative groups occurred in advance of the 2012 presidential election?
Attorney Cleta Mitchell, a former Oklahoma legislator who is representing several groups in a lawsuit over the targeting, likened the disappearing emails to the famous 18-minute gap in the Nixon Watergate tapes. “It’s ridiculous,” Mitchell said. “They’re such liars. Unbelievable.”
The Wall Street Journal editorialized that it’s not a stretch to believe this latest turn of the crank was intentional. Just last week it was reported that shortly before the 2010 election, the IRS “shipped a 1.1 million page database about tax-exempt groups to the FBI. Why? New emails turned up by Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee show Department of Justice officials worked with Ms. Lerner to investigate groups critical of President Obama.”
The IRS says it produced 24,000 Lerner emails from 2009 to 2011 because Lerner had CC’d other IRS workers. But an unknown number of others are supposedly gone.
It’s not a stretch to presume the missing emails would also cast Lerner in a less-than-flattering light. So why not just stonewall, as this administration has done on so many other issues while claiming Republicans are just out make President Barack Obama look bad?
Issa, R-Calif., dismissed the “the computer ate my emails” excuse as ridiculous. “Do they really expect the American people to believe that, after having withheld these emails for a year, they’re just now realizing the most critical time period is missing?” Issa said.
The answer is no.