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Tipsheet

Federal Judge: What's The Status On Lois Lerner's "Lost" Emails?

Remember when the IRS claimed they "lost" tens-of-thousands of emails belonging to former head of tax exempt groups Lois Lerner? (Who by the way, is retired now with a full taxpayer funded pension after raking in hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in bonuses). Remember when IRS Commissioner John Koskinen claimed there were no back up tapes? Lerner's emails aren't lost and backup tapes do exist. Now, it's important to find out what's in both.

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Last week, as part of a lawsuit issued against the IRS by Judicial Watch, Federal Judge Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the IRS to give an update on the status of those "lost" emails and tapes. 

Judicial Watch announced that Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a Judicial Watch request to issue an order requiring the IRS to provide answers by June 12, 2015, on the status of the Lois Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost. Judicial Watch raised questions about the IRS’ handling of the missing emails issue in a court filing on June 2, 2015, demanding answers about Lois Lerner’s emails, which had been recovered from backup tapes. Judge Sullivan issued the court order on June 4, 2015.
Judicial Watch has argued that the IRS misled the court and Judicial Watch by withholding the truth about the existence and content of the backup tapes. In response to Judicial Watch’s litigation and pressure from Congress, some of Lerner’s emails had been recovered by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) despite testimony from the IRS Commissioner and representations to Judge Sullivan that Lerner’s emails had been irretrievably lost and destroyed.
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What Judicial Watch is looking for

(a) clarification as to whether all emails that have been recovered by TIGTA have now been turned over to the IRS for review and processing in response to Plaintiff’s request, the volume of those emails, and the time frame in which the IRS anticipates completing its review and production of responsive emails, and

(b) clarification as to whether the processing is complete for all 1,268 backup tapes to determine what emails are recoverable, and if not, when the processing is expected to be complete. 

As noted above, the IRS has until June 12 to respond. IRS attorneys argue the emails belong to TIGTA, not the government agency, and therefore don't have to be turned over because they aren't IRS records. 

Back in November, IRS officials admitted the agency hadn't bothered searching for Lerner's emails despite being told to do so by Congress.

 “The Obama IRS obstructed and lied to a federal judge and Judicial Watch in an effort to hide the truth about Lois Lerner’s emails,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “The IRS, including its top political appointees IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and General Counsel William J. Wilkins, has much to answer for over its contempt of court and of Congress. And the Department of Justice officials enabling this cover-up in court need to be held accountable, as well. The IRS is out of control and Judicial Watch is happy that Judge Sullivan has taken this key step to remind the agency that it is accountable to the rule of law and the American people.”

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Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated IRS attorneys have argued the emails belong to Lerner, not the government agency, and therefore don't have to be turned over because they aren't IRS records. That is incorrect. IRS attorneys have argued the emails belong to TIGTA, not the IRS, and therefore don't have to be turned over by the IRS because they aren't IRS records. Apologies for the error. 

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