If you missed my piece yesterday on Lerner's reportedly not missing emails, click through and spend five minutes catching up on the evolving timeline. The "official" story keeps shifting, so it's important to track the changes. This week's previous development was that a Justice Department attorney informed a watchdog group that all government emails are, in fact, archived, but that retrieving the messages "destroyed" by Lerner's hard drive crash/scratch would be more trouble than it's worth. Now we have another drip of damning information, courtesy of Fox News:
Lois Lerner’s Blackberry was intentionally destroyed after Congress had begun its probe into IRS targeting of conservative groups, a senior IRS lawyer acknowledged in a sworn declaration. Thomas Kane, Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel for the IRS, wrote in the declaration, part of a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch against the IRS, that the Blackberry was "removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012." That date - June 2012 - is significant because by that time, ex-IRS official Lerner had already been summoned before congressional staffers who interviewed her about reports of the IRS' targeting of conservative groups. "We had already talked to her. Our personal staff and Oversight Committee staff had sat down with Ms. Lerner and confronted her about information we were getting from conservative groups in the state of Ohio and around the country," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox News.
Remember, Republicans in Congress started asking pointed questions about abusive targeting practices all the way back in 2011, at which point Lerner's hard drive allegedly malfunctioned -- a "fact" that did not become public until this summer, and was not reported at the time to the National Archives, in violation of federal law. Also recall that then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman -- the guy who visited the White House on numerous occasions -- testified in early 2012 that no targeting was taking place. The agency finally copped to their malfeasance in the spring of 2013 in an attempt to preempt a forthcoming Inspector General report. With questions and controversy swirling, the IRS deliberately destroyed Lois Lerner's government smart phone. Lerner has emerged as the point person in the DC-based targeting scheme. She initially lied, claiming she'd had no involvement in the practice. Today's Fox News story follows up on the revelation that Lerner's emails may still be stored somewhere:
An administration official told Fox News Monday night that Judicial Watch misinterpreted the Friday phone call. "There was no new back-up system described last week to Judicial Watch," he said. "Government lawyers who spoke to Judicial Watch simply referred to the same email retention policy that Commissioner (John) Koskinen had described in his Congressional testimony." But Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who represents other conservative groups suing the IRS, cited a whistleblower who bolsters Judicial Watch's interpretation. "I received information from a former Department of Homeland Security official who had security clearances. He just retired in April," Mitchell said. "He contacted me and he contacted Judicial Watch and some members of Congress and said there is backup material."
There's a big difference between "back-up systems exist, but they're too hard to access" and "back-up systems exist, but these emails are totally gone." The bit from Cleta Mitchell is intriguing, too, as it appears to confirm Judicial Watch's interpretation of what the DOJ lawyer told them last week. There is no reason to believe the administration is telling the truth, given their ever-changing tales. This imbroglio is littered with "smidgens" of corruption, and the administration continues to stonewall investigators following the destruction of evidence. Will we ever get answers?