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IRS: Reports that Lois Lerner's emails were backed up are 'erroneous

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AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Wednesday dismissed recent press reports saying that the lost emails of former IRS employee Lois Lerner might still be recoverable.

In August, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch said it was told by an IRS lawyer that Lerner's emails still exist and were backed up in some form. That led to GOP complaints that Koskinen didn't tell the whole truth about the status of those emails in various hearings before Congress.

Internal Revenue Service Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner listens during testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee May 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee is investigating allegations that the IRS targeted conservative non-profit organizations with the words "tea party" and "constitution" in their names for additional scrutiny. Lerner, who headed the division that oversees exempt organizations, plans to assert her constitutional right not to answer questions. AFP  PHOTO / Karen BLEIER        (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images) The head of the IRS on Wednesday dashed any hopes that the missing Lois Lerner emails might exist somewhere still. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Then, in September, Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said they were told on a phone call that 760 computer servers have not been searched for Lerner's emails.

In testimony Wednesday, Koskinen indicated that the story related to Judicial Watch had no basis in fact.

"Recently, there were erroneous press reports that the IRS backs up information by sending it to a government-wide database," he said. "I want to clarify, there is no system outside the IRS, government or otherwise, that the IRS uses to store emails."

Koskinen also explained that Lerner's old Blackberry was "disposed of under standard IRS recycling procedures," which included erasing it to ensure no taxpayer information could be culled from it later.

Republicans have been chasing down Lerner's emails as they investigate the IRS targeting scandal. The GOP says Lerner was at the center of that scandal, and that it's too convenient that she lost more than two years' worth of emails that Republicans were seeking.

Today's hearing was marked by the usual tension between Koskinen and Republicans, who again accused Koskinen of shading the truth in an effort to stonewall the investigation. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), for example, criticized Koskinen for giving an interview in which he accused "some" of not wanting a special counsel to examine the scandal, because they can keep holding hearings.

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