Official: Justice Department to investigate lost IRS e-mails

The Justice Department is investigating missing e-mails for former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner, according to testimony that Deputy Attorney General James Cole prepared for a hearing on Thursday.

The House subcommittee on economic growth, job creation and regulatory affairs, headed by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), has called on Cole to answer questions about the Justice Department’s response to the Internal Revenue Service targeting controversy.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., left, FBI Director James Comey, center, and Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole, right. (Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency)

Cole said in his prepared remarks that the Justice Department is “investigating the circumstances of the lost emails from Ms. Lerner’s computer.” The Wall Street Journal first reported his planned remarks.

Lerner is a central figure in the agency’s targeting controversy. The IRS has said it lost many of her communications when her computer crashed in June 2011. It also said it destroyed her hard drive as a matter of protocol after trying to recover the data with help from technical experts, including IRS forensic specialists.

“Finally, someone in the administration admits that the destruction of two years of emails from Lois Lerner is fishy,” Jordan said in a statement on Wednesday.  He added that there are still “significant bipartisan concerns with the administration’s overall investigation.”

The House approved a resolution in May calling on the Justice Department to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the IRS’s targeting of nonprofit advocacy groups based on their names and policy positions, an issue the agency’s inspector general detailed in a report last year.

The measure passed by a vote of 250 to 168, with 26 Democrats voting in favor of it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has also requested that the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor to look into the matter.

In May, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a letter to Cruz declining to make the appointment. He said the appointment of a special prosecutor “is not warranted” because the IRS case does not present a conflict of interest for the Justice Department’s career professionals who have examined the targeting issue. Jordan said Wednesday taht Holder should act on the committee’s resolution.

Jordan and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) have criticized the Justice Department for allowing Barbara Bosserman, an attorney who donated heavily to President Obama and the Democratic party, to help lead the agency’s review of the IRS matter.

The Justice Department has said there was nothing inappropriate about naming Bosserman to assist with the investigation, and that the agency is prohibited from taking her political leanings into account before making personnel decisions.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.



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Josh Hicks · July 16, 2014