New Documents Obtained by Judicial Watch Reveal Inspector General Sought Missing Key IRS Email about Targeting of Tea Party Groups
Missing May 2010 email could be among the “lost” emails IRS now claims were destroyed by Lerner hard drive collapse
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released a new batch of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents including an email from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) seeking a missing May 2010 IRS internal email ordering the targeting of Tea Party applications. The TIGTA email also questioned the IRS “retention and backup policy regarding emails.”
In the January 24, 2013, email from Troy Paterson of the TIGTA office to Holly Paz, the former director of the Office of Rulings and Agreements, Paterson wrote:
During a recent briefing, I mentioned that we do not have the original e-mail from May 2010 stating that ‘Tea Party’ applications should be forwarded to a specific group for additional review. After thinking it through, I was wondering about the IRS’s retention or backup policy regarding e-mails. Do you know who I could contact to find out if this e-mail may have been retained?
On January 31, 2013, Paz responded to Paterson apologizing for apparently failing to meet with the TIGTA official and diverting his request for the missing May 2010 email to IRS legal counsel:
I’m sorry we won’t get to see you today. We have reached out to determine the appropriate contact regarding your question below and have been told that, if this data request is part of e-Discovery, the coordination needs to go through Chief Counsel.
Beginning in late March, the hunt for the missing email directing the targeting of Tea Party applications resulted in a frenzied internal IRS email exchange, including the following:
- March 25, 2013 – 1:35 PM – Lois Lerner to Holly Paz:
Troy said he did reach out to the name you gave him to see if they could find the email, but got no response. Can you give me whatever info I gave you so I can kick some butt wherever it needs kicking!
- March 25, 2013 – 2:38 PM – Lois Lerner to Nikole Flax (then-Chief of Staff to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller):
He [apparently Troy Paterson] said they contacted the person, but no one ever responded. I will get the contact we gave him from Holly. I personally reached out to them to tell them TIGTA was coming and asked for the right person to help. Once I get the name, perhaps someone can ask them to respond to TIGTA? We shoot ourselves in our own foot!
- March 25, 2013 – 2:57 PM – Lois Lerner to Nikole Flax:
In our response, based on what we were able to find out from staff, we told them that in 2010, someone in Determs [Determinations] sent out an informal email to all Determs folks asking them to forward all “Tea Party” applications to another specialist. TIGTA asked for a copy of the email. We asked everyone in Determs to check their email to find it – no one could find a copy … In any event, apparently, no one responded to Troy’s request.
- March 26, 2013 – 11:07 AM – Lois Lerner to Nikole Flax:
I’ll send the draft – don’t freak out because we had a good talk and I believe there will be another draft to comment on – we had a higher up guy this time. As to information we can’t provide – I’d rather they do the IT route –the investigatory route means they’d go out and question staff, who are already freaked.
After claiming that she was trying to track down a copy of the missing email, Lerner later denied it existed. In an April 2, 2013, email to Paterson and Assistant Inspector General Gregory Kutz, previously released by Judicial Watch, Lerner wrote:
So, following our conversation last week, we again searched our records and spoke to EO Rulings & Agreements employees about the May 2010 e-mail regarding the pre-BOLO [Be On the Look Out] criteria, and the issue of who approved the criteria. We now believe that there was not a May 2010 e-mail sent to all Determinations personnel directing them to coordinate these cases with group 7825.
If the May 2010 email sought by the Treasury Inspector General exists, as Lerner acknowledged in her March 25, 2010, email to Flax, it could now be among those the IRS claims were lost when Lerner’s hard drive was destroyed.
On June 27, Judicial Watch filed a Motion for Status Conference, and within hours was granted a hearing, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to confer about the emails of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials, which the IRS claims were destroyed. The emails were the subject of longstanding Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and a lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. IRS (No. 1:13-cv-01559)). The hearing is scheduled for July 10.
The emails Judicial Watch has sought since May 2013 cover portions of the same period for which the IRS on June 13, 2014, notified the House Committee on Ways and Means were lost or destroyed. Yet, the IRS and the Department of Justice failed to notify either Judicial Watch or the court concerning the “lost” emails.
“This extraordinary series of emails further confirms, contrary to statements by President Obama, that the Tea Party suppression effort was run out the IRS headquarters in Washington, DC. And it raises more disturbing questions about smoking gun IRS evidence disappearing and a cover-up that goes back to at least 2013,” stated Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president. “At this point, our FOIA lawsuit seems the best vehicle to get to the bottom of this IRS scandal.”