An overwhelming majority of Americans believe the Internal Revenue Service deliberately destroyed emails belonging to Lois Lerner, the disgraced former official at the center of the agency's targeting of conservative groups, according to a new Fox News poll.
An impressive 76 percent of respondents say the federal agency orchestrated the disappearance of nearly two years’ worth of Lerner’s emails, according to the poll conducted June 21-23.
IRS officials revealed earlier this year that Lerner’s computer supposedly crashed, wiping out thousands of subpoenaed emails written between 2009 and 2011. The agency also revealed after Congress had already requested Lerner’s emails that it had “recycled” her hard drive, claiming that the requested data was totally irretrievable.
Since first admitting in 2013 to the targeting of conservative groups during a staged apology at an event in Washington, D.C., Lerner has refused to discuss the scandal, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
IRS commissioner John Koskinen testified Monday that he has no idea who first told him of the email loss, adding that he is unsure why the agency didn't try to retrieve Lerner's correspondence with the recovery systems currently in place.
The Fox News survey, which was conducted by Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) and contains a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points, reveals that the skepticism regarding the email loss is shared by both sides of the aisle: Ninety percent of self-identified Republican respondents say the IRS destroyed the emails, while 74 percent of independents and 63 percent of Democrats say the same.
A mere 12 percent of survey respondents, the most dedicated of the White House’s supporters, say they believe the emails were destroyed accidentally, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,018 randomly selected registered voters.
Only 12 percent of respondents say they aren’t sure what to think.
As an interesting aside, the Fox survey also shows that the younger the respondent, the higher the disbelief in IRS’ explanation for the missing emails.
Here's the poll broken down by age:
Eighty-two percent of respondents ages 35 and younger believe the IRS destroyed the emails, while only 10 percent in this age group believe the agency's account of how they were lost; 77 percent of respondents ages 35-54 believe the agency destroyed the emails, while 11 percent don’t; 71 percent of respondents ages 55 and older believe they were destroyed, while 14 percent don’t; 71 percent of respondents ages 65 and older don’t believe the agency, while 15 percent do.
The IRS “accidentally” losing subpoenaed correspondences has also convinced more Americans that Congress needs to step up its efforts to get to the bottom of the targeting scandal.
A whopping 74 percent of respondents now say Congress should keep investigating until “someone is held responsible,” a seven-point increase from April.
And the skepticism doesn't end there: 73 percent of self-identified Republican respondents say they don't believe that President Obama learned of the targeting scandal from reading the news, as he has often said, while 68 percent of independents say the same.
Only 42 percent of Democrats say they believe the president, while a slightly larger 44 percent say they don’t.
By failing to report the email loss to the proper federal authorities, the IRS did not act lawfully, according to David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States.
Ferriero testified during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Tuesday that he was never notified of the supposed computer crash that led to the loss of Lerner's emails.
By failing to do this, he added, the IRS is in violation of rules mandated under the Federal Records Act, which state that the National Archives is to be notified of the loss of any and all federal records.