Treasury: Lerner never talked Tea Party with us

Treasury Department officials said Friday that there's no reason to believe that former IRS official Lois Lerner came to them with the tax agency's improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups.

To back that up, one official said the Treasury handed over a wide range of communications between Lerner and the department's employees, as requested by GOP investigators, according to a letter obtained by The Hill.

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In that letter, Alastair Fitzpayne, a Treasury assistant secretary, told House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) that there's no evidence suggesting "Lois Lerner communicated with anyone at the Treasury Department" about the IRS's treatment of conservative organizations.

A Treasury official said the department gave the committee more than 2,400 pages worth of documents from January 2009 to May 2011. 

The IRS told lawmakers last week that Lerner's computer crashed in 2011, leaving the agency unable to reproduce her emails for the previous two-plus years and spurring anger among GOP investigators. Lerner touched off the IRS controversy in May 2013 by apologizing for the agency's conduct, and she has been the central figure in the investigation ever since.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified Friday on those missing emails in an often testy hearing before the Ways and Means panel, with Republicans telling Koskinen that his claims about the missing emails couldn't be believed. Koskinen told Republicans that he and the IRS had no reason to apologize.

Camp and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) had asked the White House, the Treasury Department and other government agencies to turn over any emails between Lerner and their staffers.

The White House said this week that there were no direct emails between Lerner and White House staffers, though a third party emailed both Lerner and White House officials on three separate occasions.

In its letter to Camp, the Treasury Department also said that the IRS told it in April that some of Lerner's emails appeared to be missing. Fitzpayne told Camp that the department agreed that the IRS should tell Congress as soon as it could, but "ultimately deferred to the IRS on how to handle the matter."

Republicans at the Friday hearing said they were angry that the Treasury and White House found out about the email problems before they did.

Fitzpayne also said that there's no evidence that the Treasury had anything to do with the IRS's screening of Tea Party groups.

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