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IRS chief’s legal adviser spread word of missing e-mails to Treasury lawyer

eye-opener-logo6Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testified this summer that he played no part in spreading word of the agency’s controversial missing e-mails to the Treasury Department or the White House. But one of his closest advisers apparently did.

Transcripts of closed-door testimony with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee show that IRS attorney Catherine Duval acknowledged telling Treasury legal counsel Hannah Stott-Bumsted about the matter. A Fox News affiliate first revealed the testimony in a report Monday.

Republican lawmakers have suggested that the IRS collaborated with the Treasury Department and the executive’s office to control damage from the IRS targeting scandal. The White House learned about the missing e-mails in April, two months before the IRS informed the congressional committees that had requested the records for investigations.

Duval and Stott-Bumsted worked together at a D.C. law firm before joining the government. They’re also friends, according to Duval.

“I was seeking to have a conversation with a colleague,” Duval said. “I think that talking to appropriate colleagues about issues that you’re working on can sharpen your thinking.”

Duval added: “I don’t think that Commissioner Koskinen would be surprised that I was talking to Ms. Stott-Bumsted. But Commissioner Koskinen would not know about particular conversations or the content of particular conversations.”

Duval’s testimony provides a starting point for congressional investigators who want to determine whose e-mails to check for evidence of potential collaboration between the White House, the Treasury Department and the IRS. They now know to start with Duval and Stott-Bumsted.

Koskinen testified in June that he did not direct anyone to talk to Treasury or the White House about the missing e-mails. During the hearing, he practically challenged Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who heads the House oversight panel, to prove otherwise.

Issa asked Koskinen at one point in the hearing whether he “caused” anyone at the White House, Treasury Department or the IRS inspector general’s office to find out about the missing e-mails. The IRS chief said: “I did not, and if you have any evidence of that, I’d be happy to see it.”

The Treasury Department has distanced itself from the targeting scandal, saying in a letter to Congress in June that there is “no evidence” of the agency being involved in the IRS’s inappropriate actions, which involved applying extra scrutiny to certain nonprofit advocacy groups based on their names and policy positions.

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