Republican Congressman: Lerner Should Have Known She Was Obliged by Law to Preserve Her E-mails

by Molly Wharton

Representative Pat Meehan (R., Penn.) asked for White House lawyer Jennifer O’Connor’s insight as an attorney on the litigation matters surrounding the missing IRS e-mails.

O’Connor, who served as counsel to the IRS commissioner in 2013, testified during the IRS investigation hearing on Tuesday morning after being issued a subpoena by committee chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.). 

The IRS told Congress in June that many e-mails of former IRS official Lois Lerner were lost, but Meehan along with many other members of the GOP are saying that the e-mails should have been preserved under the law, as they were central to the investigation surrounding the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups. 

Meehan noted that in 2011, hundreds of pages of materials and e-mails that were handed over by the IRS in response to a Ways and Means Committee subpoena showed that there were discriminatory practices by the IRS directed toward both liberal and conservative organizations. 

Since the IRS knew of the allegations, Meehan said, they should also have known that under the law ”certain electronic records may need to be identified and preserved when litigation is anticipated.” 

“This is not ambiguous,” he said. He explained that Lerner was advised in January 2011 “very specifically” that her communications were potentially subject to the discovery process. 

He asked O’Connor, “Why weren’t those e-mails retained in 2011 when she had notice that she was potentially subject to discriminatory practices?” O’Connor responded that she did not know.

“It appears that that also happens to be just the same time frame . . . within weeks in June 2011 that seven people from IRS has their computers crash,” Meehan added. “Pardon me for being suspicious about the timing.”