The Department of Justice blocked an attempt to force the Internal Revenue Service to search for Lois Lerner’s missing emails at off-site storage facilities, according to a lawyer pushing to obtain the emails.
The IRS never looked for Lerner’s backup email tapes at the West Virginia storage facility where they were being housed. Treasury deputy inspector general Timothy Camus told Congress that the IRS never asked IT professionals at the New Martinsville, W.V. storage site for the backup tapes. Camus only found the backup tape for Lerner’s missing 2011 emails about two weeks ago.
But the Obama administration knew that emails were stored at off-site facilities, and even shut down a legal request to send somebody to go look for them.
“We said in court that there are off-site servers where all IRS emails are stored,” lawyer Cleta Mitchell told The Daily Caller.
Mitchell represents the voter-ID group True the Vote in its lawsuit against the IRS over improper targeting. Shortly after it was revealed last summer that the IRS was missing Lerner’s emails, Mitchell petitioned U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton for an independent forensic examiner to be appointed to investigate the missing emails.
Mitchell referred to the IRS’ off-site storage facilities in West Virginia and Pittsburgh in court in July. But DOJ lawyers representing the IRS and the Treasury inspector general argued that Mitchell could not even discuss the existence of the storage facilities in her capacity as a lawyer.
“The Department of Justice lawyers objected to that and said I shouldn’t even be allowed to mention these off-site servers without sworn affidavits,” Mitchell told TheDC. “They meant that I was trying to testify to the judge without bringing in witnesses with sworn affidavits.”
Mitchell’s motion to get an independent forensic examiner was denied. The IRS’ internal investigation never headed to West Virginia, and the Treasury inspector general’s investigation managed to find a pertinent tape in West Virginia a mere two weeks before last Thursday’s House Oversight hearing. One of the IRS employees tasked with finding data on Lerner’s crashed hard drive was legally blind.
Mitchell’s statement about the off-site servers was clear as day, according to court transcripts obtained by TheDC.
“I’m advised that the IRS maintains servers that are in different states in different locations and that IRS employees are advised that their emails are never lost,” Mitchell said in court, according to the transcripts.
“That’s what I’ve been told as far as my emails here,” the court replied.
“And I have had individuals who worked with, for the IRS from all across the country who have communicated that to me,” Mitchell continued. “And they say — I hear from government employees, retired and active, who say what is being said is not possible. It is not plausible and it is contrary to what we are told as employees of the IRS.”
Mitchell requested “the opportunity to at least have some expert look at whether the perimeters of the investigation are complete and … will fully cover all of the potential ways or places in which this investigation should look or take into consideration.”
But the email tapes sat there in West Virginia, alone and unexamined.
DOJ did not return a request for comment for this report.
As TheDC reported, the IRS fired its email-storage contractor Sonasoft just weeks after Lerner’s email-deleting computer crash.