IRS agrees to hand over Lerner emails

The Internal Revenue Service has agreed to turn over emails and other documents from Lois Lerner, a core player in the agency’s targeting controversy, the House Ways and Means Committee said Friday.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) threatened last month to subpoena those documents after criticizing the IRS for failing to comply with his request.

“This is a significant step forward and will help us complete our investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups,” Camp said in a statement. 

The announcement comes just days after Lerner, the IRS official who first acknowledged the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups in May, for the second time invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination before the House Oversight Committee.

But instead of Lerner’s return dominating headlines, as Republicans had hoped, a quarrel between that panel’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and its top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), received most of the attention.

Democrats have stressed that the IRS has already turned over more than 500,000 pages worth of documents and say none of them show any link between the agency’s actions and the White House.

New IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has pledged to do whatever he can to help Congress finish off its investigation of his agency.

Republicans have increasingly acknowledged that Lerner is likely central to their investigation. Lerner’s lawyer, Bill Taylor, has maintained that Congress is unlikely to ever hear her testimony, placing even more importance on Lerner’s emails and documents.

Camp has requested all of Lerner’s emails since 2009 and complained the IRS had only turned over Lerner’s emails that dealt with determining whether a group was eligible for tax-exempt status.

Republicans have also been sharply critical of new proposed federal rules governing those groups, and are interested in any role Lerner might have played in seeking new regulations.

“From the few Lerner documents we have received, we know that Washington, D.C., orchestrated the targeting of groups applying for tax-exempt status, surveillance of existing tax-exempt groups and formed the proposed 501(c)(4) rules designed to push conservative groups out of the public forum,” Camp said Friday.

“The remaining documents are key to determining the level of wrong doing and deception committed by this agency.”