The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the loss of more than two years of e-mails from an Internal Revenue Service employee at the center of a controversy over how the agency handled Tea Party groups.
The disclosure was made in testimony prepared to be delivered tomorrow by Deputy Attorney General James Cole before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The e-mails belonged to Lois Lerner, former director of tax-exempt organizations at the IRS.
“The investigation includes investigating the circumstances of the lost e-mails from Ms. Lerner’s computer,” Cole will say, according to the prepared testimony.
The Justice Department and FBI have been investigating whether any crimes were committed by Lerner or others who 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, in addition to the one being conducted by the Justice Department.
The IRS has blamed a crash of a computer hard drive for destroying some of Lerner’s e-mails between January 2009 and April 2011. The IRS has said that backup tapes were recycled and that the agency didn’t intentionally destroy any evidence.
The IRS inspector general is expected to issue a report soon about the damaged hard drive, which has become a point of contention as House Republicans accused the IRS of covering up information related to the scrutiny of Tea Party groups.
The Justice Department has been investigating the activities of Lerner and other IRS employees who handled tax-exempt groups since shortly after their activities became public.
“While I know you are frustrated by the fact that I cannot at this time disclose any specifics about the investigation, I do pledge to you that when our investigation is completed, we will provide Congress with detailed information about the facts we uncovered and the conclusions we reached in this matter,” Cole is expected to say.