Issa broadens IRS probe with request for personal emails

The House Oversight Committee is demanding that the Internal Revenue Service official at the center of the Tea Party targeting probe turn over any emails from her personal account she might have used to conduct official business.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the ongoing investigation indicated that Lois Lerner sent some official documents to her personal email address, which "raises concerns" about whether the committee can fully understand her role in the improper targeting from official emails alone.

As such, he requested that Lerner hand over all correspondence "referring or relating to your official duties" dating back to the beginning of 2008. House Oversight subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) also signed the letter.

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Issa charged that by conducting official business via a non-official email account, Lerner might have skirted automatic email archiving of government emails, making it more difficult for the IRS to fulfill Freedom of Information Act requests and the document requests of congressional investigators.

The letter does not provide evidence Lerner used a personal email address in matters relevant to the Tea Party targeting. Issa said his request was to "understand the extent to which you may have used a non-official email account for official purposes, and whether information exists in this/these account(s) that would assist the committee's investigation."

A spokesman for the Oversight panel said Issa would have the option to subpoena the documents if Lerner refused to cooperate, but that no decision had been made on that front yet.

Lerner, the former director of the IRS's Exempt Organizations unit, has been on administrative leave from the IRS since May, and is a central figure in the months-long investigation into the improper targeting of Tea Party groups by the tax agency.

Lerner ignited the scandal by apologizing for the practice in May, and drew headlines when she refused to testify before Issa's panel, citing her Fifth Amendment rights. 

Via a party-line vote in June, the committee decided Lerner actually waived that right by making an opening statement professing her innocence before refusing to answer questions. The committee has yet to call her back to testify, and Lerner is seeking immunity before answering questions.