House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) speaks during the testimony of Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen June 23, 2014 in Washington, DC.
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Rep. Issa and Lois Lerner’s attorney spar over lost IRS emails

Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican spearheading one of the congressional investigations of the IRS scandal, traded barbs on Sunday with the lawyer for Lois Lerner, the embattled former IRS executive who oversaw the agency’s alleged targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Issa admitted on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which he chairs, will “probably never know” what really happened to Lerner’s hard drive, which crashed in 2011, resulting in the loss of thousands of agency emails from 2009 through mid-2011.

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News of the lost emails, revealed by the IRS to congressional investigators two weeks ago, has led to renewed accusations by Republicans who are skeptical the files cannot be recovered. Democrats have countered that the lost emails are the result of ordinary bureaucratic incompetence, rather than a conspiracy. 

“What we do know from the discovery we have gotten from e-mails that we’ve gotten from multiple sources is she broke some regulations, she broke some laws. She sent – trying to get prosecution, apparently – she sent 1.1 million tax records over to the Department of Justice including inappropriate, or actually illegal, 6103 disclosures on behalf of conservative groups,” Issa said. 

While Issa declined to say whether Lerner might have destroyed her hard drive deliberately, he was incredulous that she hadn’t printed and kept paper copies of her emails as required by law. “Do I believe she printed to paper? Yes. She’s an attorney of longstanding, and it’s kind of hard to believe that you wouldn’t cover with your own paper copies,” Issa said.

Issa also accused Lerner’s attorney of lying about the existence of a paper trail, saying “her attorney has said things that are not correct, or disingenuous, or outright lied a number of times, it’s been shown by e-mail.”

Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor III, rejected those claims in his own appearance on “State of the Union” immediately after Issa. “I won’t respond to that, except to say he’s wrong, he said.

“It’s convenient to have a demon that they can create and point to,” Taylor said, calling the Republican-led investigation into his client “election year politics.”