White House spokesman Josh Earnest stonewalled reporters Monday, seeking an explanation for the administration’s Friday-night claim that a computer crash wiped out all the emails between IRS chief Lois Lerner and other agencies, including the White House.
“You’ve never heard of a computer crashing before?” Earnest told a reporter during a brief press gaggle while flying back to D.C. from President Barack Obama’s fundraising trip to California.
“A good faith effort has been made” to find the missing emails, he said.
Skepticism about the administration’s claim is “indicative of the kinds of conspiracy that are propagated around this story,” Earnest scoffed.
The claimed loss of emails have evoked much ridicule from GOP leaders, who argue that normal computer networks store backups of emails. “Ridiculous. #WH has to get serious,” reads a tweet from Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican Party.
From 2010 onward, Obama’s IRS officials used their tax power to cripple fundraising and advocacy at many Republican-leaning tea party groups before the 2012 election.
IRS official Lois Lerner played a central role in the suppression effort, but has refused to explain how the scheme began, and if the White House was involved.
Administration officials promised to send copies of Lerner’s emails to House GOP investigators. But they now say they have no copies of her messages to and from senior officials in other agencies, because her computer crashed.
The story “is entirely reasonable because it’s true and it’s a fact,” Earnest said.
Earnest did not explain if agency officials have searched through computers at other agencies for copies of Lerner’s messages.
The missing emails could show conversations between Lerner and senior administration officials in the White House or other agencies.
“If we’re trying to hide those letters and emails from Congressional oversight, there’s a pretty large loophole,” Earnest said, after noting that the IRS provided 67,000 Lerner-related emails earlier.
Those messages, however, were mostly between Lerner and her subordinates in the IRS.