Conservative watchdog gets court hearing on Lerner’s missing emails

The conservative watchdog Judicial Watch said Friday that it had been granted a hearing in federal court about the missing emails of former IRS official Lois Lerner.

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Judicial Watch says it has still not been told that the IRS couldn’t recover some of Lerner’s emails from 2009 to 2011. The group says it learned about the missing emails only from media reports despite an outstanding request for communications from that period.

The federal district court in D.C. on Friday granted Judicial Watch a July 10 hearing to discuss why the group wasn’t told, shortly after the group asked the court to weigh in.

The IRS’s statements that Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011, leading to the missing emails, has jumpstarted congressional investigations into the agency.

“The IRS is clearly in full cover-up mode,” Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch’s president, said in a statement. “It is well past time for the Obama administration to answer to a federal court about its cover up and destruction of records.”

The IRS said Friday afternoon that it was still looking into the court’s action.

Judicial Watch submitted a freedom of information request for IRS documents in May 2013, not long after Lerner first admitted that the agency improperly scrutinized Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.

The group has since released emails that showed that Lerner, the central figure in the IRS’s targeting controversy, and Justice officials discussed whether tax-exempt groups could be prosecuted if they lied about how engaged they were in politics.

John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, said at congressional hearings over the last week that the agency learned that there were issues with Lerner’s emails in February. Koskinen said he first learned there were missing emails in April, and that the IRS waited to tell Congress to ensure that it could fully explain what happened.

But Judicial Watch said Friday that it only learned about the missing emails through the media this month, after the IRS told Congress about Lerner’s hard drive crash. The White House and Treasury Department knew about problems with Lerner’s emails in April, which further angered GOP investigators.

The conservative watchdog added Friday that it believes that it was their freedom of information lawsuit that prompted the IRS to discover Lerner’s missing emails.

Judicial Watch says they received their first batch of emails from the IRS in February as well. More than 10 months ago, congressional investigators also subpoenaed all of Lerner’s emails from 2009 to 2013.

The group’s freedom of information request also covers Nikole Flax, another senior IRS official reported to have hard drive problems.