Sunday, June 29, 2014

THE IRS SCANDAL: “Lois Lerner fights back” ? ! ? — Well, not quite...

Lerner’s attorney addresses aspects of the lost Lois Lerner emails, some of the investigation of conservative groups and the Senator Grassley invitation inquiries

Poltico article about the statements by Lois Lerner’s attorney has some interesting takeaways  —  like she was an intense partisan, who was just doing her job for the IRS  looking into conservatives and conservative groups  —  she kept no personal backup of what she did on her computer and it wasn’t her responsibility to do so; and if it was required by law to keep any backup, then somebody else at the IRS should have been doing it

[ NOTE:  >>>  See my comment below “BACKFILL: THE “HOW DID WE MISS THIS ?” EDITION –  LA TIMES CALLS FOR AN ‘INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION’...   Galewyn Massey...  June 30, 2014 at 12:25 AM”]

Is this what Politico means by “fight[ing] back” ?   “Lois Lerner has no records of two years of missing emails and Republican claims that she’s hiding something are “silly,” her lawyer said in his first interview since the controversy around the former IRS official erupted two weeks ago *** ‘She doesn’t know what happened,’ lawyer William Taylor III said of the 2011 computer crash that erased two years worth of Lerner’s correspondence. ‘It’s a little brazen to think she did this on purpose.’ ....” ( See “Lois Lerner fights back” by RACHAEL BADE, 6/27/14, Politico []). Needless to say, the title of the Lois Lerner piece is a bit of a stretch  —   not a word in it comes from her; it’s all from her attorney; and all of the supposed “fight[ing]” are well-parsed statements concerning Lois Lerner’s missing emails. the problematic inquiry into the invitations sent to Senator Grassley and his wife and some of the lingering questions about the IRS operation to closely scrutinize conservative groups that applied for various categories of tax exempt status. .

There is very little that is new in what attorney William Taylor had to say about the 2011 computer crash that erased two years worth of Lerner’s correspondence. However, there was something.  —   According to the Politico article posted by Ms. Bade, Lerner’s legal representative  “...revealed that Lerner did not print official emails or have any saved on a backup computer....” and he specifically stated that  “She didn’t have anything to do with the destruction of her computer.”

Politico gave this specific time line of the loss of Lerner’s emails: “Lerner came to work one day in late spring 2011 and was surprised to flick on her computer to find a “blue screen,” he said. He said she tried to get it fixed since her practice of archiving was to simply save things on her computer. Democrats have released emails showing Lerner contacting the IRS IT department to show she tried to resolve the problem. ***   She never backed them up on a USB or separate hard drive, he said....”   That passage in the Politico article ends with this very provocative observation, “[Lerner’s attorney’s description of her practices handling her emails ruled] out a line of questioning posed by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) about whether Lerner could have the emails stored elsewhere on a portable device....”  The article goes into very great detail on the issues surrounding the lost emails and Lerner’s attorney’s responses with respect to smoe of the questions raised, but it all seemed to be like a dog chasing its tail --- which might have been the real purpose of Lerner's lawyer's exercise.

The Senator Grassley matter was also mentioned by Lerner’s attorney and reported by Politico  as follows: “Taylor said ... Lerner was simply suggesting a referral for the group [that sent the invitation], not the Iowa lawmaker. ***  “You don’t refer people to the exempt organizations division,” he said, calling the accusations “false” and “irresponsible” on Ways and Means’ part. ***  Lerner and Grassley were invited to speak at the same event in winter 2012, but their invitations were swapped by accident. Lerner recalls that the topic was on 501(c)(4) and the conference was at a “nice resort,” her lawyer said. ***  The unnamed group offered to pay for Grassley’s wife to accompany him, something Lerner thought may have been improper. Her colleagues said it wasn’t and it appears she dropped it after that.”

Those few facile lines don’t quite cover the multitude of possible sins by Lerner involved in her raising the Grassley issue(s) for further investigation inside the IRS. Come to think of it, what Mr. Taylor III had to say about the lost emails was also a little too cute.

Maybe, thinking that what it had reported about Lerner’s attorney’s remarks was a little too close to flacking ..., the Politico article also addressed  this: “In most of her criticized email correspondence released thus far from GOP investigators, Lerner has referred to scrutinizing conservative groups, like Crossroads GPS, while at the same time joking with colleagues that she wanted to work for the pro-Obama group Organizing for America.”  Lerner’s  attorney’s response was that Lerner was just doing her job looking into the political activities of the rapidly rising number of conservative groups making application for tax exempt status.    R-I-G-H-T !

The breaking news on this is that Lerner’s attorney  also appeared on a Sunday morning news shows  to say the same stuff as above....  Is this just Bill Taylor III trying to get his full fifteen minutes of fame, or is there something more going on ? One critical review of Taylor's appearance on CNN's  "State of the Union" said this: "Taylor’s defense of his client is based on the notion that Lerner is the real victim of targeting here. ***  'She was as upset as anybody else was about the loss of the emails and the other documents which were on the[re] which were quite important to her,' Taylor said of what even Candy Crowley called the “suspicious” disappearance of two years’ of email records...." (See " ‘Phony scandals’ and an election year ‘demon’: Lois Lerner’s unconvincing defenders" by Noah Rothman, 6/29/14, Hot Air Blog []).


Anonymous said...

The missing e mails are going to be Obama's equivalent of what Monicas stained dress was to Clinton.

Do missing e mails ever really stay missing?

Anonymous said...

If a liberal publication like Politico is hitting Obama on IRS scandal than the tide has turned.
Politico was dismissive of Benghazi, Solyndra, Fast & Furious.

Galewyn Massey said...




A comment above by “Anonymous... June 29, 2014 at 10:32 PM” states that, “If a liberal publication like Politico is hitting Obama on IRS scandal than the tide has turned [sic]....” In reality, I believe that the Politico posting is quite equivocal; and it gave Lerner’s attorney lots of leeway to explain away her problems. However, a few days earlier a significant milestone was reached with respect to “the IRS Scandal.” The LA Times called for a “Special Investigation” by “... a trusted and energetic figure who can conduct a vigorous inquiry, with no questions about his or her motives.”

Here’s where the rubber meats the road; and with the LA Times saying it, it should have some traction >>> “... It's past time to turn over the inquiry to an independent investigator who can dig up the truth and, if possible crimes are revealed, refer matters to federal prosecutors....” (See “Editorial Who can get to the truth at the IRS? An independent investigator.” by LA Times Editorial Board, 6/24/14, LA Times/ []). In a boldfaced quote, the top people at the LA Times make this rhetorical point: “Why an agency that relies on record-keeping would keep such limited records is a mystery.”

The LA Times editorial also gave its analysis as to the underlying inquiry concerning the IRS’ investigating the “tea party groups.” According to the LA Times, when confronted with an upsurge in applications by political groups for tax exempt status “... rather than addressing that issue systematically, the IRS gave extra scrutiny mainly to tea party groups, often in inappropriate ways, an inspector general reported. *** Now, 13 months after that report was published, there still has been no thorough recounting of why the agency took those steps and what role, if any, the White House played....”

Thus the LA Times concludes, “...[T]he situation cries out for the appointment of someone with a track record of sorting through complex problems to figure out what happened and who's responsible. Although it's tempting to demand a special prosecutor, as some Republicans have done, such efforts in the past have come at great expense and with wildly mixed results. A prosecutor also may be required by ethics rules to keep some findings secret, which is the opposite of the transparency needed here. Better to call on a trusted and energetic figure who can conduct a vigorous inquiry, with no questions about his or her motives.”

Needless to say, if the independent investigator finds something significant and criminal, and the AG and Federal Prosecutors don’t act, an independent prosecutor or other remedies might be called for in this real “IRS Scandal.”

Galewyn Massey said...




“... Lois Lerner spoke at a 2010 government conference where Lerner’s underling Nikole Flax announced the new IRS program scrutinizing groups applying for tax-exempt status. *** Both Lerner and Flax experienced “computer crashes” that led to the permanent deletion of their emails, according to the IRS, which said it cannot hand over their emails to congressional investigators on two House committees....” (See “Lois Lerner And Fellow IRS Official Announced Targeting At 2010 Conference Before Both Of Their Emails Went Missing” by Patrick Howley, 7/1/14, Daily Caller []).

The Daily Caller went on, saying, “Both Lerner and Flax briefed fellow government bureaucrats on the new targeting at the conference, where Lerner appeared at a workshop called “Will the IRS Come Knocking?” *** Flax announced the new program scrutinizing groups at the Washington Non-Profit Legal & Tax Conference at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. from February 18-19, 2010. At the time, Flax worked under Lerner in the Exempt Organizations office. *** The IRS began flagging tea party applications in February 2010, the month of the Washington conference.” Also during the conference at the Grand Hyatt, Nikole Flax went into great detail as to the new practices and procedures in the new program for handling tax-exemption applications and renewals for non-profits.

Daily Caller further reports that Flax later serve as chief of staff to IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller, who has stepped down since this scandal erupted. Howley’s post made a these particular points about Ms. Flax: “Flax made 31 visits to the White House between July 12, 2010 and May 8, 2013, according to White House visitor logs. Flax’s visits started in the early days of the IRS targeting program and ended just two days before the IRS scandal broke on May 10, 2013. Flax met twice in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with Jeanne Lambrew, a top adviser to President Obama who exchanged confidential information on conservative groups with Lerner.

Galewyn Massey said...




A new report in the Daily Caller blog indicates that, according to 2012 emails obtained by Congressional Investigators, Nikole Flax, one of the IRS officials whose emails were lost in a “computer crash,” was responsible for handling congressional inquiries about the agency’s targeting of nonprofit groups. The report goes on to say, “Nikole Flax served as ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s point person on delaying and reviewing all IRS responses to questions about what Lerner called “c4 stuff.” Flax was tasked with emailing “affirmative messages” to IRS officials if she approved of their responses to questions about the targeting....” ( See “IRS Official Whose Computer Crashed Was Responsible For Spinning Congress On Targeting” by Patrick Howley, 7/7/14, Daily Caller []).

In addition, when people on Capitol Hill started asking questions about a new program of IRS audits and practices for Tax Exempts Organizations, which had been put into place by Lerner and Flax, Flax was the one who responded to letters from members of Congress asking about the agency’s scrutiny of 501(c)(4) groups. That include all 2012 letters, including those from Democrats who wanted the IRS to change regulations on groups to allow less political activity.

At one point, Flax wrote to fellow IRS officials, including Lerner, that she wanted to delay any IRS responses to the letters; and also that she also wanted to personally approve any responses before sending them. Flax wrote in a July 24, 2012 email to Lerner that the congressional letters “created a ton of issues including from Treasury and [the] timing [is] not ideal....”

Patrick Hawley’s report in the Daily Caller gave these details of Lerner’s response to Flax: “‘That is why I told them every letter had to go thru you,’ Lerner replied to Flax. ‘Don’t know why this didn’t, but have now told all involved, I hope! Sorry for all the noise. It is just stupid, but not welcome, I’m sure.’ *** Lerner then sent an email instructing top IRS officials to make sure that all responses related to ‘c4 stuff” must first be screened by Flax and gain an “affirmative message’ from Flax.”

Then Hawley quoted this item from Lerner referring to the channeling of “c4 stuff” to Nikole Flax, “‘I know you all have received messages independently, but I wanted all to hear the same message at same time,’ Lerner wrote on July 24, 2012 to IRS officials including Holly Paz, Lerner’s Washington-based supervisor of tax-exempt applications.... Regardless whether language has previously been approved, NO responses related to c4 stuff go out without an affirmative message, in writing from Nikole,’ Lerner wrote.”

As was previously reported, Flax made 31 visits to the White House between July 12, 2010 and May 8, 2013, according to White House visitor logs. Flax’s visits started in the early days of the IRS targeting program and ended just two days before the IRS scandal broke on May 10, 2013; in addition, Flax met twice in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with deputy assistant to the president for health policy Jeanne Lambrew, on Oct. 5, 2012 and Jan. 15, 2013.