Quick history lesson: As various investigators dug into the IRS targeting scandal, they discovered that a large cache of emails sent and received by key agency figure Lois Lerner were missing. The emails in question were sent between 2009 and 2011, the time period in which the abusive scheme was concocted and implemented. We were told that the lost emails were a result of a "hard drive crash" that happened to occur just ten days after a Republican Congressman made the first inquiry into alleged targeting practices. Those who've expressed doubts about the "crash" claims -- namely, a super majority of the American people -- were mocked and dismissed by the White House as adherents to a "conspiracy theory." Lerner's suspicious efforts shortly after the scandal broke in 2013 to determine whether the IRS' internal instant messaging system was archived anywhere are also indicative of nothing, the administration insists. Also shunted aside are the facts that email storage guidelines (based on federal law) were ignored, as was the requirement that the agency immediately report the loss of emails to the National Archives.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified repeatedly that his agency made every attempt to recover Lerner's emails after the supposed 2011 crash -- an assertion that has been contradicted by Koskinen himself, and by subsequent reports. One such report was the late July bombshell that Lerner's hard drive had only been "scratched," and that in-house IT professionals at the IRS had recommended enlisting "outside experts to recover the data," which they believed to be possible at the time. For some odd reason, the IRS declined to do so, and instead destroyed Lerner's hard drive permanently. Which brings us to the latest twist, reported by Dan last night: A Justice Department attorney told the Watchdog group Judicial Watch that the federal government does, in fact, back up all electronic records. So the emails exist somewhere, according to this lawyer, but it'd be really hard to track them down. Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton described the bewildering interaction on Fox News yesterday:
"They say it would be too hard to go and get Lois Lerner's emails from that back-up system. Everything we’ve been hearing about scratched hard drives, missing e-mails of Lois Lerner, other IRS officials, other officials in the Obama administration–it’s all been a pack of malarkey."
To recap, we've gone from "they ceased existing altogether after the hard drive crash," to "they may have existed after the scratch, but they're gone now," to "well, they're still floating around somewhere, but it's too difficult to retrieve them." Lie upon lie. That final excuse is redolent of Koskinen's deer-in-the-headlights moment in June when Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) asked why the IRS hadn't at least accessed the six-month "back up tape" to recover a portion of those emails immediately after the alleged hard drive incident. If the agency really did take "extraordinary" measures to restore those emails, why wasn't that obvious step taken? Koskinen ended up muttering about how it would have been "costly and difficult" to do so. In other words, it was just "too hard." The federal government had the capacity to take concrete steps to recover many of Lerner's emails, and they chose not to. This new development suggests that they still have that ability, but are making a decision not to act. This information may strike you as profoundly suspicious -- it might even rise to "smidgen of corruption" levels -- but that would make you a conspiratorial paranoiac, according to the administration.