Following the release of an email from former IRS official Lois Lerner warning that “we need to be cautious about what we say in emails” and asking if the IRS chat system could be searched, a federal judge ordered the IRS to explain how it lost countless other emails to and from Lerner.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has given the IRS a month to provide an explanation: “I’m going to hold tight to that Aug. 10 declaration.” What explanation could be offered at this time is anyone’s guess.
Judge Andrew Napolitano appeared on Fox News with Neil Cavuto to talk about Sullivan’s order.
“It’s getting interesting, because while Congress is attempting to get information from Lois Lerner and her colleagues at the IRS about the so-called ‘missing’ and ‘crashed’ emails, two federal judges are doing so as well. And they have tools that the Congress doesn’t have,” said Napolitano.
“They have the ability to lock people up when they mislead, lie, lie to the court, or disobey orders. Just this afternoon, a federal judge by the name of Emmet Sullivan- in a case filed by Judicial Watch, those wonderful, ethical watchdogs in DC that keep the government’s feet to the fire, said to the IRS ‘you’ve got 30 days. I want certifications under oath. And every time you have a conversation about emails you can’t find, it’s going to be in the presence of another federal judge, and he is going to scrutinize everything you say’.”
On Wednesday, emails released by House Oversight Republicans revealed one potentially incriminating email in particular, in which Lerner wrote to another IRS employee:
“I had a question today about OCS [Microsoft Office Communications Server, the internal chat system used by the IRS] . I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails—so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails. Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable—I don’t know, but told them I would get back to them. Do you know?”
“OCS messages are not set to automatically save as the standard; however the functionality exists within the software. That being said the parties involved in an OCS conversation can copy and save the contents of the conversation to an email or file,” replied IRS technology employee Maria Hooke. “‘My general recommendation is to treat the conversation as if it could/is being save somewhere, as it is possible for either party of the conversation to retain the information and have it turn up as part of the electronic search. Make sense?”
“Perfect,” wrote Lerner in response.
These emails were sent April 9, 2013 between Lerner, Hooke, and IRS Director for Exempt Organizations Exam Unit Manager Nanette Downing, and has fueled suspicion that Lerner has something to hide. On Thursday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called this email exchange a “smoking gun”.
“This is Lois Lerner clearly cautioning people not to say things on email and be delighted to find out that the local instant chat they have, this Microsoft product, wasn’t tracking what they said,” said Issa.
“It’s very clear that on April 9, 2013, well into this investigation, she’s still on the job and she’s still covering her tracks and considering, if you will, whether they are covered,” he added.
Also on Thursday, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), the same Congressman and vocal critic of Lerner and the IRS who asked the NSA to turn over Lerner’s missing emails and introduced “The Dog Ate My Tax Receipts Act,” has filed a motion to push the Congressional police to arrest Lerner for contempt of Congress.
Political commentator Charles Krauthammer called Stockman’s motion “almost as idiotic as impeachment”. “You don’t want stunts like the Sergeant of Arms of Congress arresting Lois Lerner for God’s sake,” said Krauthammer. “But what you do is you trust the courts because the Democrats, the administration and the IRS are going to have to respect what a judge does.”