The Corner

Lois Lerner’s ‘Lost’ Emails

Eliana’s report is just stunning — no matter how many times similar “mishaps” have occurred in this administration. The IRS, like other government agencies, has lots of reasons to maintain e-mails, so I’m curious about whether they will be similarly informing courts, Congress, litigants, FOIA petitioners, and other people and bodies they must periodically make disclosures and reports to that they’ve lost nearly two years’ worth of agency communications? Or was this just one of those highly, highly unusual computer crashes that affects only the e-mail account of Lois Lerner and any executive branch official with whom she happened to exchange messages?

In Faithless Execution, I recount that it was especially important to the Framers that the president be accountable. After considering a variety of different models, they decided to vest all executive power in a single official — the president — not in a committee or an array of agencies. “The executive power is better to be trusted,” James Wilson explained, “when it has no screen.” The arrangement was supposed to make the president singularly responsible for the actions, including the wrongdoing, of any and all his subordinates.

Naturally, when it reluctantly covers administration scandals, Obama’s media Praetorian guard spins the story as being that the misconduct du jour of the IRS, the ATF, the Justice Department, the State Department, the VA, and the rest “has not been connected to the White House.” But it is always connected to the White House. The president is responsible for all the officials and agencies delegated to wield the power the Constitution vests only in him — and this is even more surely the case when his reaction to nearly every scandal is to protect or promote wayward officials and agencies; to help stonewall rather than encourage cooperation with investigators, get to the bottom of what happened, and discipline the incompetents and rogues. And while some Obama apologists say the executive branch has expanded too much for any one person reasonably to be held accountable for its actions, how could that be a defense for a president who claims government can efficiently handle a dramatically more intrusive role in our lives?

When will this president finally have to answer for the executive-branch lawlessness that is an everyday occurrence on his watch?

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