House GOP steps up Lerner email investigation

House Republicans said Friday that they were seeking emails between IRS officials outside of Lois Lerner and the White House, as the GOP steps up its investigation into the Tea Party controversy.

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Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) said they were seeking communications between five IRS officials who also had hard drive issues and the Treasury Department, Justice Department and a range of other federal offices, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

The GOP investigation into the IRS gained new life after the agency said two weeks ago that a computer crash left them unable to reproduce an untold number of Lerner’s emails. Those investigations started after Lerner, then the head of an IRS division overseeing tax-exempt groups, acknowledged that the agency gave improper scrutiny to conservative organizations.

Republicans are also angry that the White House and Treasury found out that there were problems with the IRS in April – weeks before they did. On Friday, Camp and Boustany also pressed White House and Treasury about who told them that Lerner’s hard drive crashed, and whether any of their staffers discussed telling Congress with the IRS.

“We still can’t get straight answers from the IRS or this Administration about the circumstances of the destroyed IRS emails,” Camp and Boustany, a senior Ways and Means member, said in a statement. 

“And, we now know that the IRS, Treasury and White House knew that years’ worth of Lerner emails conveniently were destroyed, yet kept it secret from Congress. This administration needs to live up to the transparency and openness it promised, and give this Committee all the documents it needs to complete its investigation.”  

John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, has said that Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration will weigh in on the hard drive in the next few weeks.

Koskinen has said in hearings over the last week that he didn’t believe the IRS needed to apologize for the missing emails. He added that there was no reason to believe that any emails to or from Nikole Flax – one of the IRS officials reported to have computer issues – were lost.

Flax was chief of staff to Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner pushed out by President Obama shortly after the controversy broke.

Republicans suggested on Friday that they had doubts that Koskinen could be so sure about Flax’s emails. They also sought serial numbers and other data about the electronic devices that failed, and names and background on the IRS information technology staffers that worked on the devices.

The IRS has said that Lerner’s hard drive was destroyed after it crashed, in what was standard agency procedure.