New E-mails Show Lerner Intentionally Sought to Hide Information from Congress

July 9, 2014

‘I was cautioning folks about email and how we have several occasions where Congress has asked for emails … we need to be cautious about what we say in emails’

he House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today released new e-mails at a hearing with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen showing former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner leading an IRS effort to hide information from Congressional inquiries.

From the April 9, 2013, email exchange among Lerner, an IRS technology employee (Maria Hooke), and the agency’s Director for Exempt Organizations Exam Unit Manager Nanette Downing who led audits:

I had a question today about OCS [Microsoft Office Communications Server]. I was cautioning folks about email and how we have several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails – so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails.  Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable – I don’t know, but told them I would get back to them.  Do you know?

Lerner’s April 2013 e-mail exchanges came just twelve days after the IRS Inspector General shared a draft copy of its targeting audit with the IRS that Lerner would leak at a bar association speech only weeks before the scandal became public.

In e-mails withheld from the Committee until only last week, Lerner was apparently concerned that IRS conversations taking place within the agency’s instant messenger program could end up in the hands of Congress along with requested e-mails. An IRS technology employees responded that “OCS messages are not set to automatically save” but cautioned that “parties involved in an OCS conversation can copy and save the contents of the conversation to an email or file.”  Lerner responded, “Perfect.”

When Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, raised the e-mail to Commissioner Koskinen’s attention, Koskinen said he had never seen the e-mail and was unfamiliar with the OCS communication system.

You can read the new Lerner e-mails here.

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