In a startling admission, the Internal Revenue Service told a federal court on Wednesday that the agency has not searched any of its standard computer systems, including various "other sources," for ex-agency official Lois Lerner's missing emails, according to Judicial Watch. Instead, the tax agency claimed that doing so would prove futile.
In the agency's court battle with the nonprofit watchdog group Judicial Watch, the case of the former IRS official's lost emails became more complicated this week after IRS attorneys made the assertions in a court filing last month as part of a Freedom of Information Act, The Daily Caller reported.
"The Obama IRS couldn't care less about the federal court's orders to provide full information about the 'missing' Lois Lerner emails," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. "Instead, the IRS, with the help of a compromised Justice Department, has engaged in a series of transparently evasive distractions."
Lerner, a key figure in the IRS targeting scandal, admitted in May 2013 that the agency inappropriately used search terms like "tea party" to review applications for tax breaks, which led to long delays and set off the furor last year. The former head of the tax-exempt unit in Washington has since stepped down and has been held in contempt of Congress by the House, according to Politico.
"On June 13, more than one year into the investigation, and one month after the committee was promised it would receive all of Lerner's emails, Congress learned that potentially thousands of them, over roughly two years, were destroyed as a result of a 2011 computer crash," Fox News reported.
But Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the tax agency, claiming that the missing emails could be recovered by several alternative means, such as searching the agency's disaster recovery tapes, searching agency servers and searching a "government-wide backup system"
In response, the IRS said that it did not search the agency's servers for the missing emails because it determined doing so "would not result in the recovery of any information."
When further questioned about why IRS had not looked at backup tapes, the agency stated that there was "no reason to believe that the tapes are a potential source of recovering" the missing emails. Additionally, disaster recovery tapes were also not searched because "the tapes are reused or destroyed every six months, therefore rendering them useless in the hunt for Lerner's emails from or before 2011," according to the Associated Press.
The IRS did not "submit declarations about any of the foregoing items because it had no reason to believe that they were sources from which to recover information lost as a result of Lerner's hard drive failure," the agency admitted.
Meanwhile, while Judicial Watch attorneys argued that the tax agency "did not undertake any significant efforts to obtain the emails," the IRS stated that it was completing every requirement in compliance with the lawsuit.
"As the IRS has said before, it continues to cooperate with the investigations and legal actions underway," the agency told Fox News. "Suggestions to the contrary are inaccurate and misleading. Beyond this, as this matter is in litigation, the IRS defers to its court filings."