IRS destroyed evidence in Lois Lerner case

The cover-up of Lois Lerner’s email correspondence has been unusually thorough and effective. The former IRS senior official who took the Fifth Amendment has, through either a miraculous series of coincidences or an unusually effective criminal conspiracy, so far managed to escape examination of what she wrote about her efforts to target conservative groups and deny them tax exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election.

The track-covering is remarkable. Evidence under subpoena was destroyed. Sarah Westwood writes in the Washington Examiner:

Eight months after Congress requested emails from embattled IRS official Lois Lerner, tax agency employees "magnetically erased" hundreds of backup tapes.

"The IRS did not put forth an effort to locate and preserve the backup tapes," said Timothy Camus, deputy inspector general for investigations with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. He said 422 backup tapes were destroyed.

The new details about the IRS watchdog's year-long efforts to uncover Lerner's missing emails emerged during a hearing Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Camus testified that he can’t find anyone deliberately destroyed evidence:

Camus noted his investigation "found no purposeful destruction by employees."

"I'm not alleging that the Commissioner [Koskinen] willfully gave any information that he knew at the time he gave it not to be true," said Camus.

"But [his testimony] wasn't true, was it?" asked Chaffetz.

"We found emails that they did not," said Camus haltingly.

"That they did not what?" shot back Chaffetz.

"That they did not find them, and our investigation showed that they did not look for them," admitted Camus. Then he added carefully: "But I am not alleging that the Commissioner made false statements, at this point."

"How could you say that was anything other than willful?" said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., of the destruction of potential evidence in the early days of a scandal over the tax agency's discrimination against conservative nonprofits.

"You almost have to have the smoke coming out of the end of the gun" for such destruction of records to be characterized as "willful," Meadows noted.

However, in lawsuits, such as that being pursued by Z Street, the doctrine of spoliation of evidence comes into play.  As Wikipedia explains:

The spoliation of evidence is the intentional, reckless, or negligent withholding, hiding, altering, or destroying of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding.[1] Spoliation has two possible consequences: in jurisdictions where the (intentional) act is criminal by statute, it may result in fines and incarceration (if convicted in a separate criminal proceeding) for the parties who engaged in the spoliation; in jurisdictions where relevant case law precedent has been established, proceedings possibly altered by spoliation may be interpreted under a spoliation inference, or by other corrective measures, depending on the jurisdiction.

The spoliation inference is a negative evidentiary inference that a finder of fact can draw from a party's destruction of a document or thing that is relevant to an ongoing or reasonably foreseeable civil or criminal proceeding: the finder of fact can review all evidence uncovered in as strong a light as possible against the spoliator and in favor of the opposing party.

But a lawsuit will not generate criminal charges, which are necessary in order to have leverage to get people to reveal who instructed them on the destruction of evidence.  Instead, Republicans may have to settle on impeachment hearings for John Koskinen, IRS head.

Separately, details have emerged on the destruction of Lois Lerner’s hard drive. Once again, the cover-up is either miraculous or coincidental. The Inspector General has concluded that Lerner’s hard drive “More than likely crashed due to an impact of some sort.” Moreover, the time at which this happened has been narrowed down to a two hour window. But wouldn’t you know it! The records of who entered the office building at the time the likely impact took place have been destroyed. Americans for Tax Reform report:

…according to Congressional testimony submitted today from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

According to the testimony, Lerner’s laptop stopped communicating with the IRS server on Saturday June 11, 2011, between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. On Monday June 13, 2011, Lerner reported the laptop inoperable. Her laptop was then serviced by an IRS IT staff technician and a Hewlett-Packard contractor:

“When asked about the possible cause of the hard drive failure, the HP technician opined that heat-related failures are not seen often, and based on the information provided to him, the hard drive more than likely crashed due to an impact of some sort. However, because the HP technician did not examine the hard drive as part of his work on the laptop, it could not be determined why it crashed.”

Ed Morrissey reports at Hot Air:

 If the time of the event is so narrowly deducible, why not take a look through the security data to see who came into the office that weekend? Well … not exactly, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Tim Camus explains:

Attempts were made to determine if anyone entered Ms. Lerner’s office prior to the hard drive crash on June 11, 2011; however, the entry logs that would have recorded any entry into the building were destroyed by the building security vendor after one year of retention, or sometime in 2012. The destruction of the logs after one year falls within the vendor’s standard operating procedures.

Morrissey notes that this is an unusually short period to retain such records:

I left the retail security industry eight years ago, and we had stopped applying a one-year retention policy on records a few years prior to that, when our systems developed enough to keep all files in digital form (mostly when UL approved the use of non-hardcopy retention).

So there we are: the records have been destroyed and unless Edward Snowden, the NSA, the Chinese hackers, or someone wlse who has all these records releases them, the systemic corruption of the IRS to target political opponents of the president will go unpunished.

But that’s much less worthy of note than the Confederate battle flag being visible on video games, according to our mainstream media.