The Corner

IRS Destroyed Lois Lerner Blackberry After Congressional Inquiry Began, Never Searched It

According to the second round of IRS affidavits submitted to U.S. district court judge Emmett Sullivan, who is presiding over the lawsuit brought against the nation’s tax agency by watchdog group Judicial Watch, Inc., IRS technical analysts did not search Lois Lerner’s Blackberry for her allegedly “lost” e-mails — and the smartphone was destroyed after congressional investigation had begun.

Lerner’s government-issued laptop reportedly crashed in June 2011, at which time IRS analysts tried but failed to recover data, including e-mail communications, according to previous testimony. In his sworn declaration, Stephen Manning – deputy chief information officer for strategy and modernization with the IRS Information Technology business unit – reports that “there is no record of any attempt by any IRS IT employee to recover data from any Blackberry device assigned to Lois Lerner in response to the Congressional investigations or this litigation.” This despite the fact that Lerner had been in possession of a government-issued Blackberry since November 2009, according to the statement of Thomas J. Kane – deputy associate chief counsel for procedure and administration within the IRS Office of Chief Counsel – and it would likely have hosted at least some of Lerner’s electronic communications.

Moreover, IRS documents provided by Kane show that Lerner’s Blackberry “was removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.” By that time, a congressional investigation was well under way. In March of that year then-IRS chief Douglas Shulman was questioned by Congress about the targeting of conservative groups, and in April Republican congressman sent questions to Lerner about the targeting. Lerner responded on April 26.

These revelations increase the likelihood that Judge Sullivan would grant a motion requesting limited discovery, which Judicial Watch is permitted to file after September 10.

In 2013, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request for e-mails to and from Lerner, the former head of the IRS’s tax-exempt division. The organization claims that the IRS never informed them of Lerner’s computer crash, in violation of the law.

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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