The Case of the Missing IRS Emails: An $18M Whodunit
Policy + Politics

The Case of the Missing IRS Emails: An $18M Whodunit

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

In the case of the missing IRS emails, some facts are murky but this one is clear: It's an $18 million whodunit. So far.

The congressional search for smoking gun documents that might incriminate the former head of IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division Lois Lerner in the so-called Tea Party targeting scandal is leaving a major money trail.

More than 250 IRS employees have spent more than 120,000 hours sifting through documents in an effort to find out how and why Lerner’s hard drive was allegedly destroyed and why there were no back-up tapes for her email. Lerner was the target of the original congressional investigation, but invoked the 5th amendment to avoid incriminating herself. Today, we learned that Dave Camp (R-MI) claims he has evidence that the IRS was behind the destruction of the computer — Camp also claims Lerner’s hard drive was trashed intentionally.

Related: Lerner Computer Damage May Have Been Intentional

Responding to hundreds of requests from Congress for more information has cost the IRS $10 million; improving existing technology systems and software to protect private taxpayer information, an additional $6-8 million.

And the investigations continue.

The fact that there’s an “s” at the end of investigation is an important detail in the ongoing saga. The two teams investigating the IRS are led by Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). Both are vying for control, which has led to numerous duplicative requests for the same information.

Related: IRS Emails Suggest Lerner Tried to Target a GOP Senator

According to an aide to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa and Camp are interviewing the same IRS employees about Lerner’s computer crash, but they are doing so separately because Issa refuses to allow Camp’s staff to be present for any of the interviews — a surprising move given that the Oversight Committee staff has previously conducted interviews alongside Ways and Means. As a result of the power play within Congress, angency employees have had to show up for separate interviews with separate committees on separate days.

Cummings is calling for an end to the hearings. After one of the most far-reaching investigations in recent history ­­— spanning multiple House and Senate committees that obtained hundreds of thousands of documents and interviewed dozens of officials — there is absolutely zero evidence of political motivation or White House involvement. Republican fixation on falsely accusing the White House of targeting its political enemies has cost taxpayers millions,” said Cummings in an email statement to The Fiscal Times.

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