Jennifer O’Connor, a former IRS attorney who now works in the White House, struggled on Tuesday to remember the names of her former IRS colleagues before a House oversight hearing.
O’Connor, now in the Office of White House Counsel, testified in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on what she knew about efforts to gather together emails that Republicans are seeking as they investigate the IRS’ targeting scandal.
But in one conversation with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), O’Connor had trouble remembering who she dealt with at all during her six months at the IRS. Chaffetz started by asking who she worked with and who reported to her.
“One of the things that I did was to work with a team that was fairly small at that time, but got very large later,” she said.
“Who was on that team?” Chaffetz asked.
“It’s a whole number of IRS people and it changed,” she replied. When pressed by Chaffetz, she suggested, “I think the best way to get you accurate information on that would be to ask the IRS.”
Chaffetz pressed again for O’Connor to list who she interacted with. O’Connor named a few people she reported to, which prompted Chaffetz to ask who reported to her.
“Um…” she began. After more prodding, she eventually replied:
“There is somebody who’s name was… I can’t even remember his last name. I think his first name may have been Ben.”
“So a guy named Ben,” Chaffetz said. “A dude named Ben.”
Later, she said she talked with Ken Corbin, who replaced Lois Lerner as the head of tax-exempt organizations at the IRS. But she couldn’t come up with any others.
“You’re a very bright person,” he said. “You’re very bright, you’re a very personable person. Why are you being so elusive? Why not just tell us who you asked questions of?”
Chaffetz was interrupted by Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who said he might be treating O’Connor unfairly, since the memories of IRS officials appear to be very short.
“The fact is that last night, the commissioner could not remember 60 days ago who told him about the importance of losing those documents,” Issa said. “Last night he could not narrow… within 30 days when he was told. I think that in fact, the ability to remember at the IRS is simply limited.”
“I can’t believe that you’re not more candid with us,” Chaffetz concluded. “It’s hard to believe that it took five minutes to try to extract out a dude named Ben and one other person.”