Hatch presses IRS on email lapses

A top Senate Republican is pressing the IRS over why he wasn’t told that the agency’s email problems were not limited to Lois Lerner.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said that the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, John Koskinen, failed to inform him and Finance Comittee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Monday that the agency might not be able to reproduce emails for six other officials as well.

“I am troubled that the IRS' data loss may not have been limited to Ms. Lerner, but I am even more troubled that you and your staff failed to raise this issue when we met Monday,” Hatch wrote in a letter to Koskinen obtained by The Hill.

“Clearly, someone was aware of this information when we met and chose not to disclose it to me.”

The IRS told lawmakers last Friday that Lerner’s computer crashed in mid-2011, leaving them unable to recover all of her emails for the previous two-plus years. Koskinen is scheduled to testify about the problems before the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday.

Hatch said after his Monday meeting with Koskinen that the IRS had destroyed Lerner’s hard drive, where her archived emails would have been kept. Technology experts say it could be impossible to retrieve Lerner’s emails without the hard drive, given that before last year, the IRS recycled tapes storing back-up copies of emails after six months.

The Ways and Means panel said Monday that the IRS believes similar issues might have occurred with Nikole Flax, the chief of staff to former acting commissioner Steven Miller, and five other officials.

Hatch said that Flax in particular is important to the Finance Committee’s bipartisan investigation into the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups, which kicked off shortly after Lerner apologized for the agency’s actions in May 2013.

Flax is a top priority, Hatch said, because she directly communicated with the White House and the Office of Management and Budget on a variety of issues.

Hatch also questioned why it took so long for the IRS to inform Congress about the missing emails. Ways and Means says the agency knew about the problem as early as February, and the White House has said it was told in April.

"It is outrageous that the IRS waited an additional two months to inform the committee," he wrote.

In his letter to Koskinen, Hatch asks when the IRS first learned that it would be unable to recover those emails, and who knew about it when he and Wyden met with Koskinen, and what the commissioner knew at the time of the meeting.