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Watchdog: Accountability

What Lois Lerner told her IRS colleagues not to say in emails

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Embattled former Internal Revenue Service senior executive Lois Lerner cautioned colleagues against including comments in official emails and text messages that might be seen by Congress.

"I was cautioning folks about email and how we have 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 said in an April 9, 2013, email to IRS technology staff member Maria Hooke and Nannette Downing, manager of the IRS Exempt Organizations Exam Unit.

"Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable — I don’t know, but told them I would get back to them. Do you know," Lerner asked.

Hooke responded, saying, "OCS messages are not set to automatically save," but cautioned that "parties involved in an OCS conversation can copy and save the contents of the conversation to an email or file," according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Hooke further advised Lerner to treat email "as if it is/could be being save[d] somewhere, as it is possible for either party of the conversation to retain the information and have it turn up as part of an electronic search."

Hooke then asked Lerner: "Make sense?"

Lerner's response was one word: “Perfect.”

Lerner is at the center of the scandal prompted by revelations more than a year ago that IRS officials improperly targeted and harassed hundreds of Tea Party and conservative nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 campaigns.

Lerner has twice refused to answer questions put to her by the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. She claimed her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Earlier this month, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was asked about the email and the tax agency's Microsoft Office Communications Server system by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Koskinen claimed he had not seen the email and was unfamiliar with the system.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of the Washington Examiner.

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