The lead government watchdog for the IRS revealed Thursday that computer evidence was erased during the investigation into the agency’s targeting scandal, months after the IRS was told to preserve documents.
J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that IRS employees erased computer backup tapes shortly after officials discovered thousands of emails related to the tax agency’s Tea Party scandal had been lost.
As many as 24,000 emails were lost because 422 backup tapes were “magnetically erased” around March 4, 2014.
George said his office found no direct evidence the tapes were destroyed to hide information from Congress or law enforcement. But the destruction nevertheless defied a preservation order, and is sure to raise suspicions over motive.
“We have been misled. There has been evidence that has been destroyed,” committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Thursday.
George said those tapes “likely contained” 2010 and 2011 emails to and from former IRS official Lois Lerner, who has emerged as a central figure in congressional investigations. He said they will “most likely never be recovered.”
A source familiar with the matter told Fox News the evidence was destroyed 10 months after a preservation order for the emails; seven months after a subpoena; and one month after IRS officials realized there were potential problems locating certain emails.
Fox News is told the destruction of evidence also occurred about three weeks before IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified to Congress that they would provide documents to Congress.
Further, the IG review found that the IRS never looked at five of the six potential places where the emails might have been stored — including the server.
An IRS spokeswoman told the Associated Press Wednesday evening the agency had no immediate comment.
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