Lerner Admits She Wanted to Keep Contents of Communication Hidden

Via the Hill:

Former IRS official Lois Lerner warned her colleagues “to be cautious” about what they wrote in emails because of potential interest from lawmakers, according to new documents released by Republicans.

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Lerner, the central figure in the IRS’s Tea Party controversy, also wondered in the emails released by the House Oversight Committee about whether the agency kept copies of internal instant messaging conversations.Republicans said that those emails raised even more questions about the IRS’s treatment of conservative groups, especially since they were sent less than two weeks after a Treasury inspector general gave the IRS a copy of its report on the improper scrutiny.

“We know Ms. Lerner’s not being square with the American people,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said at an Oversight subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.

The emails released Wednesday mark just the latest escalation of the congressional investigations into the IRS, which have intensified since the agency acknowledged that some of Lerner’s emails from 2009 to the middle of 2011 are missing.

The IRS has said that Lerner’s hard drive crashed in 2011 and has since been destroyed, but that the agency was still able to retrieve roughly 24,000 of her emails. Democrats have said that investigations stretching more than a year – since shortly after Lerner apologized for the IRS’s singling out of Tea Party groups – have found no signs of political motivation or White House involvement.

In the April 2013 email, which the Oversight panel said it received last week, Lerner said she had been “cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails.”

“So we need to be cautious about what we say in emails,” she added.

In that same email, Lerner asked whether an internal IRS messaging system “was searchable.”

An IRS technology official responded that staffers would have to save an instant messaging conversation for it to be found in a search, but that IRS workers should generally assume that the chats would be saved.

“Perfect,” Lerner responded.

The emails were released the same day that the IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, testified for the first time before the Oversight Committee since he appeared last month to discuss Lerner’s missing emails.

Like his previous appearances, Koskinen’s back-and-forth with Republicans grew testy on Wednesday.

Jordan repeatedly pressed Koskinen over why these emails were only released this month, and blasted the commissioner for offering “flippant” answers to his questions.

Koskinen, meanwhile, chided Jordan for suggesting that Lerner had lost her own emails on purpose, and pushed back on the notion that he was being flippant.

“I’ve tried to be responsive,” Koskinen said. “I understand these are important matters.”

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