Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner once used an offensive term to describe conservatives who criticize the direction of the country, according to e-mails released Wednesday by House Republicans.

Lerner, a central figure in the IRS’s targeting controversy, referred to right wing firebrands as “__holes.” She also suggested that they could threaten the nation’s future, saying: “So we don’t need to worry about alien terRorists [sic]. It’s our own crazies that will take us down.”

Former IRS official Lois Lerner. (AP/Lauren Victoria Burke)

The former official was responding to an e-mail from an undisclosed individual who criticized conservative talk-show hosts and their discussions about “too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down, buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end.”

Lerner replied: “Maybe we are through if there are that many __holes.” The correspondence occurred in November 2012. (Scroll to the bottom to view the e-mails).

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) sent the e-mails to the Justice Department on Wednesday, saying in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that the communications represent “supporting evidence” of criminal wrongdoing by Lerner.

The committee in April referred Lerner to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, alleging that she “used her position to improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations.”

Several congressional committees began investigating the IRS’s treatment of conservative groups after the agency’s inspector general released a report in May 2013 saying the IRS had targeted nonprofit organizations for extra scrutiny based on their names and policy positions. Lerner headed the division that deals with the groups.

The former official retired from the IRS last year. Her attorney has repeatedly said that she did nothing wrong in the agency’s handling of tax-exempt organizations.

Lerner has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against testifying at two congressional hearings on the targeting matter.

In another November 2012 e-mail exchange, Lerner discussed a trip she took to England, apparently taking offense at people there who criticized the U.S. for its debt crisis.

“According to them we’ve bankrupted ourselves … We’ll never be able to pay off our debt and we’re going down the tubes,” she said. “They don’t seem to see that they can’t afford to keep up their welfare state either. Strange.”

Lerner’s reference to the struggles of a European “welfare state” are more in line with the thinking of conservatives than liberals.