Investigators have found thousands more emails the IRS withheld from Congress as part of the continuing probe of the agency’s improper targeting of Tea Party groups.
The Treasury inspector general for tax administration told congressional committees it had found roughly 6,400 emails that Lois Lerner sent or received between 2004 and 2013, which had not been turned over to Congress, The Hill reported.
According to congressional aides, committees have not yet examined the emails.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before Congress last June that Lerner’s computer hard drive was dysfunctional, “no emails could be retrieved,” and the drive “was recycled and destroyed in the normal process,” which brought audible gasps from the gallery. The IRS maintained that the backup tapes were also recycled and unusable.
Since then, the inspector general found 35,000 emails stored on the so-called “recycled” backup tapes.
Most of the latest emails were from 2012, according to the inspector general.
Lerner headed an IRS division overseeing tax-exempt groups, which singled out Tea Party organizations for special scrutiny, in many cases delaying their tax-exempt status for years in the midst of election campaigns. The agency apologized in May 2013, and Lerner retired the following September.
The House voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress in 2014, but the U.S. attorney in Washington, who works for Obama’s Justice Department, has not moved forward with charges.
The IRS said in a statement, “The IRS will continue to cooperate with the Inspector General and the congressional committees to complete work in this area, and we look forward to the results to determine what additional steps the IRS can take to ensure that we continue to improve our processes.”
The Hill reported that in February the inspector general’s office told lawmakers that it was looking into whether any crimes were committed as part of the IRS’s mishandling of Lerner’s emails.
According to Senate Finance Committee aides, the panel was close to releasing its findings last year when the IRS said it couldn’t find the Lerner emails. A spokesman for committee chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch said, “These emails will be carefully examined as part of the committee’s bipartisan IRS investigation.”
The spokesman said the committee hopes to move forward with releasing its report after reviewing the latest emails.