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GOP Lawmakers Confront IRS Chief Over Lost Emails

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testifies Friday on Capitol Hill. Koskinen was asked to explain the disappearance of emails that could relate to a probe into the targeting of Tea Party groups.
J. Scott Applewhite

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen got a frosty reception on Capitol Hill today, with Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee accusing him of lying about thousands of lost emails sought in connection with the targeting of conservative groups.

About how the emails came to disappear, Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan told the Internal Revenue Service commissioner: "I don't believe it.

"That's your problem. No one believes you," Ryan said.

The Boston Globe notes that: "During the past week, the IRS has said thousands of emails of interest to investigators looking into suspected mistreatment of political groups by the agency had been destroyed because of computer crashes affecting seven employees. Those employees included [former IRS official Lois] Lerner, who has been accused of orchestrating a politically motivated effort to hold up applications for tax exemption from Tea Party groups before the 2012 election."

The Globe says:

"Republican lawmakers responded to the disclosure with incredulity, questioning whether the emails were truly unrecoverable and accusing the agency of a Nixonian cover-up. They have also suggested that the disappearance of the emails violated federal record-keeping laws."

The New York Times writes that Koskinen "submitted as evidence an email exchange from 2011 between the agency's technology staff and ... Lerner ... in which she sought to have her messages restored. He said a computer crash and an effort to retrieve the lost messages had occurred before the agency was notified that Congress was receiving complaints from conservative political groups that they were being unfairly scrutinized."

The Times says Democrats on the committee objected to GOP lawmakers who repeatedly interrupted Koskinen before he could answer.

"You ask taxpayers to hang on to seven years of their personal tax information in case they're ever audited, and you can't keep six months' worth of employee emails?" Ryan asked.

Koskinen told the committee that "we're not going to dribble out the information and have it played out in the press." He accused Republicans of releasing inaccurate, interim information, according to The Associated Press.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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