Policy: Technology

Yes, we have heard of computers crashing --- and no, we're not stupid

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,White House,Tea Party,IRS,Josh Earnest,Technology,Lois Lerner,Becket Adams

A White House official said Monday that "it's a fact" that two years' worth of subpoenaed emails belonging to disgraced former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner were wiped out in a mysterious computer crash.

"You've never heard of a computer crashing before?" Josh Earnest, who will soon replace outgoing White House press secretary Jay Carney, asked a group of reporters on Air Force One on Monday.

“I think it’s entirely reasonable, because it’s the truth and it’s a fact, and speculation otherwise I think is indicative of the kinds of conspiracies that are propagated around this story,” he added. “And they’re propagated in a way that has left people with a very mistaken impression about what exactly occurred.”

Yes, we've heard of computers crashing before. We have also heard of remote servers, data retrieval solutions and the IRS' own rule requiring that all agency employees keep printed copies of all work-related emails.

But those subpoenaed emails, which date from 2009 to 2011, are probably gone for good, right?

Lerner first announced the IRS targeting scandal in 2013 when she admitted during a staged apology at an event in Washington that the agency had applied an inappropriate amount of scrutiny to conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

She later invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and has refused to answer questions regarding the alleged targeting, leading many in Congress to speculate over her involvement in the scandal.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Monday that investigators subpoenaed Lerner's emails because they are trying to see whether any other federal agencies are involved in the targeting.

The IRS' claim that a stash of emails were simply wiped out is "just not believable,” Issa said Monday.

"We have enough evidence of her wrongdoing that we want to review every email that she has sent or received. That's reasonable to do when you have someone who takes the Fifth," he added. "This is not about what you turn over. It is all about what you don't turn over."

After the IRS announced last week that the emails were destroyed by a crash that apparently only harmed Lerner's computer, adding that she and the agency tried their best to recover the lost correspondences, congressional investigators cried foul, accusing the White House of staging a coverup.

Earnest disputed this characterization, saying the accusations are "not at all surprising and not particularly believable.”

He explained that 67,000 emails "sent by or received by" Lerner have already been turned over to Congress.

“[I]f we are trying to hide Lois Lerner’s emails from congressional oversight, there’s a pretty large loophole. Thousands of those emails actually relate to the time period covered by the hard drive crash that you referred to,” he told reporters. “So we have — or IRS, I should say, has been engaged in an effort to track down emails that she may have sent or may have received. And tens of thousands of those have also been provided to Congress.

“So there is ample evidence to indicate that a good-faith effort has been made by the IRS to cooperate with congressional oversight,” he added.

Really? That's how the incoming Obama mouthpiece is going to defend the missing emails?

So what if nearly two years' worth of subpoenaed correspondences from a former top-ranking IRS official go missing? Look, the IRS has already given so much. Why get greedy?

That's a hell of a way to start your new gig as White House press secretary, Earnest.

Look, we understand that Carney set the bar high, but try pacing yourself a bit. You'll wear yourself out if you're not careful.

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