Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s crashed hard drive has been recycled, making it likely the lost emails of the lightening rod in the tea party targeting controversy will never be found, according to multiple sources.
“We’ve been informed that the hard drive has been thrown away,” Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said in a brief hallway interview.
Two additional sources told POLITICO the same late Wednesday, citing IRS officials.
It may just be standard government procedure, but the revelation is significant because some lawmakers and observers thought there was a way that tech experts could revive Lerner’s emails after they were washed away in a computer crash in the summer of 2011. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), for example, subpoenaed her damaged hard drive earlier this week, when he asked for “all hard drives, external drives, thumb drives and computers” and “all electronic communication devices the IRS issued to Lois G. Lerner.”
“IT experts have weighed in and said yes — we can get those” emails, said Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) earlier Wednesday.
The latest news suggests such professionals may never get the chance to try again — and the IRS has even said its criminal investigators who specialize in rebuilding hard drives to recover hidden information from criminals were unable to restore the data back in 2011. But this is only likely to further enrage Republicans, who are fuming over the matter and suspect Washington officials drove the selective scrutiny.
The IRS told congressional investigators on Friday that the emails of Lerner, the former head of the tax exempt division that was found to have singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny, were lost from 2009 to 2011 in a computer hard drive crash in early summer 2011. IRS chief John Koskinen will face angry Republicans at a hearing on Friday.