U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered agency officials to explain under oath how a likely treasure trove of lost IRS emails to and from Lois Lerner, the central figure in the targeting scandal, went missing. Sullivan gave the IRS 30 days to comply in the form of a declaration by an “appropriate official.”
The order came Thursday as part of a freedom of information lawsuit by the conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch. The IRS says it lost the emails in 2011 due to a convenient computer crashed that took place at the exact time Lerner headed the IRS division unfairly targeted conservative applications for tax-exempt status as part of a political agenda to blunt the effects of the Supreme Court Decision in Citizens United.
“In a victory for public accountability, Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered that the IRS must submit to the court a written declaration under oath in the next 30 days about what happened to Lois Lerner’s ‘lost’ emails and any other computer records reportedly lost by the IRS,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.
Judge Sullivan took the unprecedented step to appoint Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to manage and assist in discussions, as well as ordered the IRS to work with the group to decide the methods used how to obtain the missing records from various sources.
Judge Sullivan further authorized the group Judicial Watch to submit a request when needed for limited discovery into the missing IRS records after the September 10 date.
The ruling comes as new emails emerged showing that Lois Lerner cautioned her own staff about “what we say in emails,” and wanted to make sure that messages in the internal IRS chat system, known as the Office Communications Server, weren’t being tracked or accessible to Congress.
“I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails — so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails,” Lerner wrote in an email to IT employee Maria Hooke on April 9, 2013.
Hooke wrote back to Lerner that the messages “are not set to automatically save” but that anyone could “copy and save the contents” to an email or file.
She suggested that Lerner and other officials at the IRS should treat these messages “as if it could/is being saved [somewhere], as it is possible for either party of the conversation to retain the information and have it turn up as part of the electronic search.”
“Perfect,” Lerner replied.
The latest emails are damning to the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder, who now has little excuse as to why he hasn’t acted on the House’s vote to refer Lerner for criminal investigation or contempt. Back in January, House Republicans said that the Justice Department’s investigation had been “compromised,” after the Obama administration outrageously appointed one of President Obama’s donors to head up the circus probe.
“In our view, there has been a cover-up that has been going on,” Fitton said. “The Department of Justice, the IRS, had an obligation, an absolute obligation … to alert the court and alert Judicial Watch as soon as they knew when these records were supposedly lost.”
Barbara Kay Bosserman, the trial attorney appointed to investigate the IRS scandal, is a long-term donor of both the Democratic National Committee and President Obama. Campaign finance records show Bosserman contributed at least $6,750.00 going back to 2004 and donated sometimes twice a month, rotating between Obama’s campaign and the Democratic national committee. At one point, she gave $1,000.00 in one shot to the “Obama for America” super PAC.
Still, Judge Sullivan’s ruling without a doubt marks the best chance for the American people to both hold their government accountable for despotism and get closer to the truth. Those who know the highly respected judge say the IRS is likely to get hammered if the result of the inquiry is not adequate. Though the administration clearly thought the American people would swallow an excuse IT techs have said has less than a 1 in 1 million chance of being true, neither Judge Sullivan nor Magistrate Facciola are politically-motivated push overs.
“Magistrate Facciola is an expert in e-discovery,” Fitton added.
“These extraordinary court ruling are key steps in unraveling the Obama IRS’s ongoing cover up of its abuses against critics of this administration.”
Judicial Watch has played a pivotal role in getting answers on a number of scandals plaguing the Obama administration, including the suspected cover up of the details surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks on the Benghazi consulate in 2012. It was only due to the emails obtained by the group as a result of another FOIA lawsuit that Speaker John Boehner allowed a vote to establish a select committee. The emails received by court order were not redacted to the same degree identical emails received by the House were, clearly demonstrating the administration was attempting to hide information from congressional investigators.