Federal judge orders IRS to explain lost Lerner emails
A federal judge who is hearing the FOIA lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch against the IRS is dissatisfied with the agerncy's response to his request for an explanation for why Louis Lerner's emails are not recoverable.
Judge Emmet Sullivan gave the IRS one week to answer specific questions about their procedures and policies regarding computer hard drives and emails.
Judge Emmet Sullivan of U.S. District Court in Washington is seeking answers on four different fronts, including what efforts the IRS made to recover Lerner’s lost emails from alternate sources like an iPhone or Blackberry.
Sullivan gave the IRS just over a week – until Aug. 22 – to supply those answers, as part of a lawsuit filed by a conservative watchdog, Judicial Watch, seeking Lerner’s emails through a freedom of information lawsuit. The judge had previously given the agency a month to respond to his previous order, which asked more general questions about how Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011.
The agency says that the hard drive crash left them unable to recover an untold number of Lerner’s emails over a two-year span. IRS technicians told Sullivan in their Monday filings that they were unable to recover data from Lerner’s hard drive, and expressed no concerns that the drive had been intentionally sabotaged.
The IRS has previously said that Lerner’s hard drive was destroyed and recycled, with its data permanently erased, after it was determined the drive couldn’t be repaired.
Lerner has been a central figure from the start in the controversy over the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. She led an IRS division overseeing tax-exempt groups, and was the first official to apologize for the agency’s treatment of Tea Party groups.
Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch’s president, celebrated Sullivan’s new order, saying it proved that the government had offered little in their filings on Monday.
“Today’s order confirms Judicial Watch’s read of this week’s IRS’ filings that treated as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order,” Fitton said in a statement.
In a statement to The Hill, Fitton later called Sullivan’s order “an incredible court intervention.”
“Judicial Watch has filed hundreds of FOIA lawsuits,” Fitton said.” I have never seen this type of court action in all my 16 years at Judicial Watch.”
I don't think Sullivan believes the IRS and has ordered the agency to justify policies that, on the surface, sound suspicious. And he's obviously not satisfied that the IRS has been completely forthcoming about the missing emails.
Judge Sullivan is now the central figure in the IRS scandal. He's got a bulldog grip on the agency's leg and won't let go until he gets some answers.