Not only did the Commish testify – under oath, I believe – that these emails were archived, but the IRS turns out to have explicit rules for making hard-copy backups of such correspondence. I’ll repeat my immediate response upon learning of those rules: “Of course, given that the Obama Administration regards actual laws as mere suggestions, I can’t see any top officials paying a stiff price for ignoring inconvenient rules in a handbook. Or else the IRS will assure Congress it can expect those hard copies no later than June 2019, and sometime between now and then, it will regretfully announce that all the papers were consumed in a fire, or perhaps eaten by locusts.”
Of course, everyone familiar with business and government IT practices called B.S. on this whole story in ten seconds flat. There’s no way all of Lerner’s emails were left unprotected on the hard drive of a single computer, without backups, in defiance of both government-wide and agency-specific rules, and only now does anyone think to inform Congress of this, over a year after the documents were demanded. If nothing else, IRS mail servers and their backups will have copies of the messages.
It shouldn’t have taken anywhere near this long to provide two years’ worth of email correspondence from properly maintained computer systems. I could do it myself in an hour, and while I probably don’t have Lerner’s volume of email (despite the repeated attempts of Hong Kong business magnates and Nigerian royalty to enlist my help with investing their millions) it wouldn’t take me much longer if I did, and I’m not a top official in the mega-powerful agency that demands perfect record-keeping from everyone else.
Byron York is apparently hearing similar sentiments from his readership:
Readers with IT backgrounds not buying the Lois Lerner IRS ‘lost’ emails story.
— Byron York (@ByronYork) June 14, 2014
Over at National Journal, Ron Fournier is appropriately skeptical – his article is entitled “Did the IRS really lose Lois Lerner’s emails? Let a special prosecutor find them” – but he still strains mightily to extend benefit of the doubt to the Obama Administration, even as it’s clear his patience is wearing thin:
The announcement came late Friday, a too-cute-by-half cliche of a PR strategy to mitigate backlash. “The IRS told Congress it cannot locate many of Lois Lerner’s emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed during the summer of that year,” The Associated Press reported.
Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups. The IRS also screened liberal groups, which Democrats claim as proof that there was no abuse of power.
Republicans lawmakers are prone not to trust any explanation from the White House. Their most conservative voters assumed from the start that the White House was targeting right-leaning groups for intimidation.
Do we really have to go over the details of the scandal again, or have Obama and his toadies done a good enough job of rewriting history? No, Ron, the IRS did not “also screen liberal groups.” That talking point has been written into the Left’s mythology of the IRS scandal, but the House Oversight Committee has made it abundantly clear that is not true. Liberal groups were belatedly added to the “Be On the Lookout” lists when people inside the Tax Exempt Organizations division realized how bad their pogrom against conservative groups looked. Only half a dozen left-leaning groups ever received any enhanced scrutiny, it wasn’t comparable to what was done to Tea Party and pro-life groups, there were very solid non-political reasons for giving that tiny handful of left-wing groups a close look (i.e. they were reconstituted ACORN front groups) and crucially, they didn’t get the endless slow-walking “no approval but no denial” treatment Obama’s political enemies received.
And the reason “conservative voters assumed from the start that the White House was targeting right-leaning groups for intimidation” is that the IRS admitted as much. That’s how all this started, with Lois Lerner’s planted question at a tax conference, admitting improper use of IRS power to get out in front of a devastating internal audit. Everything said and done by the Administration since then has been an effort to take the sharp edges off the scandal by obscuring key facts, providing left-wingers with phony talking points, making a brief but hilariously transparent pretense of accountability (remember when Obama pretended to fire the temporary IRS commissioner who was leaving anyway… exactly the same way he pretended to fire an official in the early days of the VA scandal?) and most importantly, dragging the investigation out forever.
Here are the fruits of that strategy: long months after crucial documents were demanded by investigators, the IRS shrugs and says, “You know what? That stuff all got erased in a hard drive crash, like, um, three years ago or something.” If the story hadn’t been dragged out this long, the “loss” of those emails would have hit Washington like a nuclear blast. Instead, it’s the epilogue to a story Obama and his media allies spent a year telling the American people was over.
Ron Fournier is right to call for a special prosecutor, and he wasn’t timid about it, so good for him. But what does anyone expect to come of it, really? The IRS had a year to delete every trace of Lerner’s dangerous correspondence; if we don’t seize their systems with armed law-enforcement teams immediately, they’ll have months more to finish the job while the wheels of investigative justice slowly grind along. The special prosecutor probably wouldn’t have any results until after the midterm elections, well into Year Three of the IRS scandal. Lerner’s just going to take the Fifth again, and so will everyone else that might take a fall. Corrupt Democrats like Elijah Cummings, who should not be allowed anywhere near either this investigation – or Congress, for that matter – will pile out of their clown cars to make the hearings a circus. And if that circus wobbles into the 2016 presidential election, we’ll get to hear Hillary Clinton shriek “What difference, at this point, does it make?” all over again.
The grand lesson of the Obama years is that a Democrat president with a lapdog media can drag any scandal out until it dies of old age – becoming, at best, a partisan squabble in the collective memory of the lapdogs. Witness Politico’s headline for their article on the latest developments: “IRS, Republicans clash over Lois Lerner emails.” Oh, is that what this is? Just a bunch of Republicans yelling at the poor, defenseless IRS?
Bottom line: Obama’s gambit to use the IRS as a political weapon worked. That means it’s going to happen again.