New IRS Inspector General Report Finds No Evidence That Lerner Intentionally Crashed Computer or Concealed Emails From Investigators

Jul 2, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC (July 2, 2015)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement in response to a Report of Investigation issued this week by the IRS Inspector General:


“After spending more than $20 million and three years investigating, the Inspector General’s conclusions remain the same:  there is no evidence to substantiate Republican claims of political motivation, White House involvement, or intentional destruction of evidence.  It’s time to stop this political witch hunt and focus on investigations that impact American’s lives.”


For more than a year, Republicans have been claiming that the crash of Lois Lerner’s hard drive and the failure of the IRS to recover all of her emails from back-up tapes was an intentional effort to conceal evidence in the ongoing investigation of the treatment of applicants for tax-exempt status, despite the fact that contemporaneous evidence at the time indicated that her computer crash was the result of a technical malfunction.


For example, on June 13, 2014, former Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa stated:  “The supposed loss of Lerner’s emails further blows a hole in the credibility of claims that the IRS is complying with Congressional requests and their repeated assurances that they’re working to get the truth.  If there wasn’t nefarious conduct that went much higher than Lois Lerner in the IRS targeting scandal, why are they playing these games?”  Similarly, on June 17, 2014, Chairman Dave Camp and Rep. Charles Boustany of the House Ways and Means Committee stated:  “It looks like the American people were lied to and the IRS tried to cover-up the fact it conveniently lost key documents in this investigation.”    


In response to these unsubstantiated Republican allegations, the Inspector General conducted an investigation to determine if the IRS purposely destroyed or withheld emails in an effort to obstruct investigations by Congress, the Inspector General, or the Department of Justice.  Officials from the Inspector General’s office interviewed 118 witnesses and reviewed more than 20 terabytes of data.  This week, the Inspector General issued his report, which set forth the following conclusions:


  • “No evidence was uncovered that any IRS employees had been directed to destroy or hide information from Congress, the DOJ or TIGTA.”


  • “[T]he investigation did not uncover evidence that the IRS and its employees purposely erased the tapes in order to conceal responsive e-mails from the Congress, the DOJ and TIGTA.”


  • “Interviews of IRS employees involved in the search for the tapes and hard drives as well as those involved in the decommissioning process for the NCFB Exchange 2003 Server provided no evidence that the IRS employees involved intended to destroy data on the tapes or the hard drives in order to keep this information from Congress, the DOJ or TIGTA.”


  • “On May 22, 2013, [IRS Chief Technology Officer Terence] MILHOLLAND issued a policy directive via e-mail that was titled ‘Information Retention Policy Revision,’ changing the backup tape recycle policy from six months to an indefinite retention period for all e-mail backup tapes.”


  • “The investigation revealed that the backup tapes were destroyed as a result of IRS management failing to ensure that a May 22, 2013, e-mail directive from the IRS Chief Technology Officer (CTO) concerning the preservation of electronic e-mail media was fully understood and followed by all of the IRS employees responsible for handling and disposing of e-mail backup media.”


In addition, the Inspector General’s report identified no evidence to support reckless Republican claims, repeated in a recent Politico article, that Catherine Duval, an IRS attorney now at the Department of State, was in any way responsible for the destruction of emails or in stonewalling Congress.  To the contrary, the Inspector General’s report described how Ms. Duval relied on information provided directly by the Deputy Chief Information Officer at the IRS, Stephen Manning.  Neither the Inspector General’s report nor the Chief Records Officer at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) found fault with Ms. Duval’s actions:


  • “When interviewed, MANNING stated that he was responsible for providing technical explanations to IRS senior management and Chief Counsel, as well as coordinating the internal flow of data from IRS IT personnel during the process of gathering data for the IRS’ production process to Congress for the IRS EO matter.”


  • “MANNING stated that the decisions on whether or not to restore data from tape backups rested with IRS Chief Counsel, but it was not considered because the tape backups only went back to November 2012, which was significantly after LERNER’s hard drive failure in 2011.”


  • “When interviewed, MILHOLLAND was asked if he knew that e-mail backup tapes from a decommissioned e-mail server had been degaussed in March 2014, MILHOLLAND stated that he was not aware of this, and he advised that he was ‘blown away’ at the revelation.  He further stated that IRS IT senior management was ultimately responsible.”


  • “When interviewed, DUVAL stated that she was working with IRS Counsel on the production when they noticed they were missing e-mails.  DUVAL stated that the focus was on trying to recover the missing e-mails from the other custodians who sent or received e-mails from LERNER.  DUVAL stated the team was also trying to determine if any of the custodians had also suffered data losses.”


  • “[National Archives and Records Administration Chief Records Officer Paul] WESTER “stated the only thing the IRS did not do was to report the loss of data to NARA, but there is no timeframe for agencies to report the loss.  NARA wants agencies to employ due diligence to recover and/or identify the records before filing a report.”


  • “WESTER also stated NARA does not want agencies to report every hard drive failure, especially without first trying to determine what was lost.  When told that between 2009 and 2011, the IRS did not have the technology to implement a DoD 5015.2 Standard compliant e-mail system and that the direction to ‘print and file or click and file’ was the prescribed method of records retention, WESTER stated this falls within NARA’s guidance.”


Click here to read the report, with redactions at the Inspector General’s request. 

114th Congress