Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner reportedly pleaded with her supervisor not to deeply enquire about whether the IRS had unfairly targeted Tea Party and conservative groups for tax-exempt status just ahead of the 2012 presidential election, according to new emails obtained by a government watchdog group.
Joseph H. Grant, former Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division deputy director, was specifically asked by Lerner to refrain from visiting the tax agency's Cincinnati office and keep from asking specific questions related to any Congressional inquiries, according to emails obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit.
"Please don't ask them about closures, pipelines, wait time for full development cases, or the c4 application letter ... can we put this off please?" Lerner said in an April 4, 2012 email shortly after Grant informed her about a planned visit to the office, according to Townhall.com.
"We just got a very extensive information request from Imraan [Imraan Khakoo, TE/GE official] -sure looks like op review material. I'm especially concerned that information about pipeline is being asked about ... Add to that the fact the Cincinnati is smack dab in the middle of the c4 Congressional inquiries and is about to get a request from TIGTA on all of that, this is NOT a good time to be asking them for anything or to be talking to them about issue in their work. Everyone is stressed to the max and at their wits end, so can we put this off please?"
"It is a visit, not an OP review ... I am also interested in the questions Imraan sent to them. Some answers should be readily at hand. Others certainly won't be ... The questions just serve as a framework for a broader conversation about how things are going and what is on our respective minds," Grant responded.
Lerner, who headed the IRS division, has been accused of processing Tea Party and conservative groups for tax-exempt status improperly before the 2010 and 2012 elections. The IRS improperly delayed dozens of applications for years, according to an internal audit by the agency's inspector general. Documents show that some liberal groups were singled out, too, Politico reported.
Since the scandal broke in May 2013, documents from various agencies and individuals have been requested by GOP-led House committees, with the IRS claiming to have spent $10 million in compliance of such requests. But Lerner, who was placed on administrative leave shortly after the scandal broke and has since retired, remained the focal suspicion of the controversy, repeatedly denying any illegal behavior. Grant retired just days after the IRS scandal became public, Judicial Watch noted.
Early in 2014, the IRS finally agreed to hand over all of Lerner's emails and set about collecting them, only to realize that many of them prior to April 2011 were missing. In a claim that strains all credulity, the agency said it discovered that Lerner's computer had crashed in mid-2011, wiping out two years' worth of her emails from 2009 through 2011. The fact that the IRS made no mention of this after promising to turn over the documents for two months had committee investigators crying foul, especially after it was revealed that, as a matter of federal law, the agency was required to and has maintained a contract with an outside company, Sonasoft, for the sole purpose of backing up the email files. As a result of what many on Capitol Hill believe to be a convenient stall and cover-up tactic, outspoken conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter further.
Apart from Lerner, the IRS also lost the emails of several other employees who worked under her during that period.
Until June of last year, the tax agency was still claiming that Lerner's hard drive had been recycled and presumably destroyed after the computer crash in 2011. But in November the TIGTA found many of those emails and is reportedly working to recover them fully, a GOP source who spoke with TIGTA was told.
"These new documents, withheld for years contrary to law, suggest that a top IRS official may have obstructed investigations into the IRS scandal. Even Lois Lerner objected to her boss's travel to the infamous Cincinnati IRS office, falsely accused by Barack Obama as being solely responsible for the abuse of the First Amendment rights of his critics," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.
"These documents also show the IRS knew early on that it was abusing its authority and innocent Americans through burdensome information requests and improper collection of the names of donors to groups that threatened Obama's reelection. This IRS scandal is just getting started. Obama's cover-up of his administration's suppression of his political opposition continues to unravel."