House Republicans don't have evidence to suggest the Internal Revenue Service deliberately destroyed a hard drive containing two years' worth of emails from the former official at the center of the controversy over political targeting, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said Friday.
"We don't have any deliberate — any information to suggest there was a deliberate effort," Schock said during an interview Friday with CNN.
The House Ways and Means committee member also said Republicans did not have proof that Lois Lerner, the head of a division that examined tax exempt status for outside political groups, had received orders from the White House or Treasury Department.
Republicans have expressed incredulity at the loss of Lerner's emails, which were stored on a hard drive that the Internal Revenue Service says failed and was subsequently destroyed. They've also suggested that Lerner conspired with the president's political team to target conservative political groups for extra scrutiny, in a bid to intimidate Tea Party groups ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
Schock said there was reason to believe that Lerner "broke the law" and had directed her subordinates to target conservative groups "for additional harassment." He also said the suspicious destruction of the hard drives demanded that the Department of Justice open up a criminal investigation.
"Nobody believes that Dave Camp [(R-Mich.)], the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to the IRS asking them to investigate the targeting of these conservative groups and ten days later by happenstance, her hard drive crashed," Schock said. "And nobody believes that during that two-year period in question, can all of the e-mails were destroyed and are unrecoverable. Nobody believes that."
But, Schock said, he was "not suggesting I know" that a conspiracy occurred. Nevertheless, the Illinois lawmaker said it would be an "abdication of responsibility" not to look further into the situation.
"The White House, Treasury, IRS has not been forthcoming," Schock said. "We've had to press them to get the little amount of information we have. It warrants further investigation."
The White House has dismissed Republican concerns over the missing emails as "conspiracy theories."
"After three long congressional hearings in the last 24 hours, [there's]… zero evidence to substantiate any of the partisan Republican claims about this matter," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said earlier this week.