Thousands of ‘Lost’ Lois Lerner Emails Suddenly Found by IRS Watchdog

As many as 30,000 emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner have reportedly been found, which could give House Republicans another chance to examine Lerner’s precise role in the IRS targeting scandal.

The Washington Examiner reported Friday that as many as 30,000 emails from Lerner have been recovered by Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration.

FILE - In this May 22, 2013 file photo, Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner refuses to answer questions as the House Oversight Committee holds a hearing to investigate the extra scrutiny the IRS gave Tea Party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lerner, a former IRS official at the heart of the agency's tea party controversial called Republicans "crazies" and more in newly released emails. Lerner used to head the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status. In a series of emails with a colleague in November 2012, Lerner made two disparaging remarks about members of the GOP, including one remark that was profane. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., released the emails Wednesday as part of his committee's investigation. Camp says the emails show Lerner's disgust with conservatives. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
The IRS has said the emails of former IRS official Lois Lerner were lost, but an IRS watchdog says it has just found thousands of emails, which might give Republicans a deeper look at the IRS targeting scandal. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The IRS spent months saying many of Lerner’s emails were lost, to the disappointment of Republicans who were investigating her role in the IRS decision to apply more scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, just before the 2012 election. The Examiner said TIGTA found many of those emails on “disaster recovery tapes,” and has been working to recover them fully.

A GOP aide who spoke with TIGTA was told that the emails are from the period of time when Lerner’s emails were lost. The bulk of Lerner emails that were lost were dated from 2009 through 2011.

TIGTA has said it would still take a number of weeks before the emails are pulled out, redacted appropriately and otherwise ready to be presented to members of Congress. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said late Friday that his committee is ready to examine those emails, and said he was hopeful they might shed light on how Lerner operated.

“Though it is unclear whether TIGTA has found all of the missing Lois Lerner emails, there may be significant information in this discovery,” he said. “The Oversight Committee will be looking for information about her mindset and who she was communicating with outside the IRS during a critical period of time when the IRS was targeting conservative groups.”

But Issa also had harsh words for the IRS for failing to come up with the emails itself. Many Republicans have accused the IRS publicly of purposefully losing or hiding Lerner’s emails to let the IRS avoid further scrutiny.

“This discovery also underscores the lack of cooperation Congress has received from the IRS,” Issa said. “The agency first failed to disclose the loss to Congress and then tried to declare Lerner’s emails gone and lost forever. Once again it appears the IRS hasn’t been straight with Congress and the American people.”

In September, House Republicans believed they had a lead into where Lerner’s emails might still be stored. They said they spoke with TIGTA officials, and those officials said hundreds of computers had not yet been searched to see if they contained the emails.