The White House on Monday sought to dismiss skepticism about the IRS' losing a multitude of emails relating to the congressional investigation into the targeting of conservative groups, with a spokesman asking whether a reporter had ever "heard of a computer crashing before."
In this May 22, 2013, file photo, then-IRS official Lois Lerner is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the House Oversight Committee hearing to investigate the extra scrutiny IRS gave to tea party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
The IRS said it could not recover an untold number of emails to and from Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS tax-exempt organizations unit, because of a hard drive crash. That time period -- from January 2009 to April 2011 – included a critical time in the IRS' extra scrutinizing of Tea Party and other conservative groups.
Asked by a reporter aboard Air Force One whether he thought the technical glitch was in fact a “reasonable explanation,” Earnest, the incoming press secretary, was at first dismissive.
“You've never heard of a computer crashing before?” Earnest asked.
When pressed that emails are stored on servers and not hard drives, Earnest gave a more detailed response, including attacking Republicans in Congress.
“I think it's entirely reasonable because it's the truth and it's a fact,” Earnest said. “And speculation otherwise I think is indicative of conspiracies that are propagated in a way that left people with a disinformation about exactly what occurred.”
Earnest said the IRS provided 67,000 emails to and from Lerner to congressional committees. He said this included emails during the period of time that the IRS said the crash included.
“So a good-faith effort has been made by the IRS to cooperate with congressional oversight,” Earnest continued. “The far-fetched skepticism expressed by some Republican members of Congress is not at all surprising and not particularly believable.”
The IRS notified Congress late Friday afternoon that because of a computer crash in 2011, it would not be able to recover some of Lerner's emails from January 2009 to April 2011.
An IT expert told TheBlaze Friday it would be nearly impossible for the IRS not to have backup for such emails.
Norman Cillo, an Army veteran who worked in intelligence and a former program manager at Microsoft, argued it is very difficult to lose emails for good and believes Congress is “being lied to."