Lois Lerner’s Blackberry was intentionally destroyed after Congress had begun investigating the IRS targeting of conservative groups, a senior IRS lawyer acknowledged in a sworn declaration.
In compliance with a ruling by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, Thomas Kane, the Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel for the IRS, wrote in the declaration, that the Blackberry was “removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.”
In June 2012, ex-IRS official Lerner, the former head of the agencies 501(c)-4 division, had already been ordered to appear before congressional investigators who interviewed her about the illegal targeting of conservative groups.
“We had already talked to her. Our personal staff and Oversight Committee staff had sat down with Ms. Lerner and confronted her about information we were getting from conservative groups in the state of Ohio and around the country,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox News.
The IRS has not yet responded to a request for a comment addressing the latest development, but the revelation of the Blackberry’s destruction followed a bombshell Monday by government watchdog group, Judicial Watch. The group stated that Justice Department attorneys admitted the previously “lost” Lerner emails were, in fact, not lost at all. Justice confirmed in a Friday phone call the federal government backs up all computer records to ensure continuity of government in event of a catastrophe. However, they said retrieving the Lerner emails would simply be “too onerous.”
“The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search,” Fitton said. “We obviously disagree that disclosing the emails as required would be onerous, and plan to raise this new development with Judge Sullivan.”
The Obama administration immediately pushed back on the group’s claim, stating that they simply misinterpreted the Justice Department’s intention.
“There was no new back-up system described last week to Judicial Watch,” an administration official told Fox News Monday night. “Government lawyers who spoke to Judicial Watch simply referred to the same email retention policy that Commissioner (John) Koskinen had described in his Congressional testimony.”
But Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who represents other conservative groups suing the IRS, cited a whistleblower who bolsters Judicial Watch’s interpretation.
“I received information from a former Department of Homeland Security official who had security clearances. He just retired in April,” Mitchell said. “He contacted me and he contacted Judicial Watch and some members of Congress and said there is backup material.”
By all accounts, it is likely that the same judge who played a pivotal role in reversing the conviction of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens will not take kindly to the government’s flip-flop and conduct if it turns out they are lying. Judge Sullivan took the unprecedented step when he appointed Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to facilitate the recovery of the documents and discussions between the IRS and Judicial Watch. He further authorized the group to submit a request when needed for limited discovery into the missing IRS records after the September 10 date, which following the latest outrage, the group is certain to do.
“He gave the IRS not one, but two opportunities in court filings with him to tell him where they were,” Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch said. “There was no mention of this backup system to the court at that time.”
Meanwhile, Jay Sekulow, the Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, the firm representing numerous groups who were unfairly targeted by the IRS, says the destruction of the Blackberry is just the latest crime committed.
“If you intentionally destroy evidence, that is a crime. If you make a statement in court saying the evidence is not available and it is, that is also a crime.”