(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced that U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to report to him by June 29 the status of the recovery and release of emails of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials. The Court also ordered a court hearing, scheduling a status conference for July 1, 2015. The developments come in Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking documents about the Obama IRS’s targeting and harassment of Tea Party and conservative opponents of President Obama (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)).
On June 18, Judge Sullivan ordered the IRS to produce information about emails recovered by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the internal IRS watchdog agency:
[F]ile a supplemental report, setting forth any new information regarding: (1) TIGTA’s recovery of emails from the backup tapes; (2) TIGTA’s production of emails to the IRS; (3) the IRS’s review of emails and production to the plaintiff; and (4) the status of the TIGTA investigation. This report shall be filed by no later than June 29, 2015.
The IRS had already responded to a prior June 4 Sullivan order requiring the IRS to provide answers by June 12 on the status of the Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost. Judge Sullivan issued the order after Judicial Watch raised questions about whether all of the emails recovered by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) had been turned over to the IRS, and if so, whether the IRS had duly processed the documents.
In its response filed June 12, the IRS declared it was in “the process of conducting further manual deduplication of the 6,400” emails, even though officials from TIGTA have stated they have already identified and removed emails that are duplicates. Contrary to previous agency claims that the emails were lost and unrecoverable, the IRS finally admits that it has as many as 6,400 new Lerner emails but won’t promise to release them to Judicial Watch yet. Even though TIGTA already identified and removed duplicative emails, the IRS is in “the process of conducting further manual deduplication of the 6,400” emails, rather than reviewing them in response to Judicial Watch’s FOIA requests that are more than two years old.
On June 15, Judicial Watch attorneys responded with a court filing that demanded that the IRS should stop stonewalling and turn over the records it says it now has:
Judicial Watch respectfully requests that the Court order the IRS to start producing any exempt, responsive emails contained within the 6,400 emails immediately and disclose whether they are all or a subset of the recovered emails from the 1,268 backup tapes.
Judicial Watch’s briefs highlight how the Obama IRS has no response to our well-founded accusations that it lied to Judicial Watch, the court, and to Congress. In addition to withholding key information about Lerner’s “lost and found” emails, the Obama IRS:
does not refute in its seven-page Response that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) was able to locate the Lois Lerner backup tapes within one day of its investigation or that the IRS never requested the backup tapes from its technicians before declaring that the emails were lost forever.
In response, not only did Judge Sullivan order the IRS provide a status report on the “lost” IRS emails but into his court for a hearing on July 1 to discuss the notices.
The “lost” Lerner emails are at issue in Judicial Watch’s October 2013 lawsuit seeking documents about the Obama IRS Tea Party targeting scandal. Judicial Watch’s litigation forced the IRS first to admit that Lerner’s emails were supposedly missing and, then, that the emails were on IRS back-up systems.
In November 2014, the IRS told the court it had failed to search any of the IRS standard computer systems for the “missing” emails of Lerner and other IRS officials.
On February 26, 2015, TIGTA officials testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it had received 744 backup tapes containing emails sent and received by Lerner. This testimony showed that the IRS had falsely declared to Congress, Judge Sullivan and Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails were irretrievably lost.
“We are pleased that the court is demanding answers from the IRS, which has been dishonest and obstructionist at every turn. Our attorneys battling the IRS in several federal courts are doing more than Congress, the traditional media, or the Justice Department to hold the Obama IRS to account for its outrageous conduct,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Barack Obama and his corrupt allies in Washington may think using the IRS to harass, audit, and intimidate Obama’s opposition so he can steal an election is no big deal. Judicial Watch is in federal court to remind the Obama gang, which is still abusing the power of the IRS, that the rule of law still applies to them.”
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