When a government agency becomes abusive and recalcitrant, that agency calls for the need of vigorous, legal challenge. That’s why Judicial Watch is pleased to report that we have filed a Motion for Limited Discovery in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service.
Thus far, the IRS has refused to obey federal court orders to provide information that explains how its “lost and/or stolen” records pertaining to the targeting of conservative groups may be retrieved. And we intend to find out.
Remarkably, the IRS has filed a total of seven declarations that make an end run around court orders and omit pertinent information about the missing emails. So, we filed our Motion for Discovery on September 17, 2014, with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
In our latest filing, we describe how during a July 10, 2014, status conference, the Court directed the IRS to furnish sworn statements from agency officials that cut right to the heart of the ongoing controversy. These sworn statements were supposed to detail how the emails on Lois Lerner’s laptop computer were stored and how they could possibly be retrieved. The Obama IRS, of course, has stonewalled the court order. So, as you can see, the discovery process is critical since it can tell us what steps the IRS has taken to obtain these missing emails. It can also tell if the IRS has not taken any steps. The discovery request is pending before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.
A critical turning point in this case came on August 22, 2014, during a telephone conference call when IRS attorneys admitted to us that an electronic data backup system existed. This matters because this system stores all government records in the event of a catastrophic event and the IRS did not disclose to the court the existence of any back-up system for IRS electronic records. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is now investigating whether or not these backup tapes include the missing emails. Judicial Watch asked the IRS to include this material in its declaration, but the agency, true to form, refused to cooperate with this request.
We have put together a summary of the information the IRS has made public over the past year. Some top officials have said under oath that the backup systems do not exist, while others admit that they do. As we told the court in our Motion for Discover, the existence of additional storage systems for IRS records raises serious questions about how candid and honest the IRS has been in responding to court orders. Our own experience is that the IRS will go to great lengths to avoid full disclosure of pertinent information.
You may recall that, in May 2013, we submitted four separate FOIA requests for IRS communications concerning the current scandal. Then, we filed a FOIA lawsuit on October 9, 2013, when the IRS ignored our requests. While the agency began to produce a few scant documents in response to a court order, it declined to tell us or the court about Lerner’s missing emails.
Despite the IRS’s continued stonewalling, the Judicial Watch lawsuit has brought forth several new disclosures that have attracted much-needed congressional and media attention. We will continue to apply pressure where needed.
The bottom line is that the Obama IRS has pursued a dangerous course by ignoring Judge Sullivan’s orders to provide full information about the “missing” Lois Lerner emails. To put it plainly, we’re asking the Court to allow our attorneys to put IRS and other administration officials under oath about the IRS’s missing email cover-up. At this point, our lawsuit is the surest way for the public to get all the information to which it is entitled about the Obama IRS abuse scandal. And make no mistake about it: if we are allowed discovery, it could blow this scandal wide open.