An inspector general’s report on a damaged hard drive belonging to former Internal Revenue Service employee Lois Lerner should be complete “in a matter of weeks,” according to a letter the IRS sent to Congress today.
“I had hoped to provide you with responses today,” he wrote, “but critical information is still being collected and verified.”
Lerner’s damaged hard drive has become a major point of contention over the past week as House Republicans accused the IRS of covering up information related to the scrutiny of Tea Party groups.
According to the letter, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has asked the IRS “to treat TIGTA’s investigation as a priority and to avoid other activities around these issues until their work is concluded.”
It’s not clear from the letter what activities would be halted.
The hard drive included e-mails and other information from January 2009 through June 2011. The IRS has released e-mails showing that Lerner sought unsuccessfully to have the data recovered.
Backup tapes were recycled after six months, according to the IRS practice at the time, and the hard drive itself was also recycled.
Koskinen told Congress this week that he learned of a problem with Lerner’s e-mail in February, before his March testimony to lawmakers that all e-mails would be turned over to congressional investigators.
Koskinen said this week that he was unaware of any effort to retrieve data from the backup tapes in the six months after the hard drive crash.
Lerner, who was the IRS’s director of exempt organizations, was placed on leave last year and then retired. She has refused to testify before Congress, invoking her constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.
Republicans have voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress and called on the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor.
Lerner’s employees gave extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups seeking nonprofit status. The May 2013 revelation of the IRS’s actions led to management changes at the agency and congressional investigations that are continuing.
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