The IRS’s failure to preserve former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails is continuing to be problematic for the IRS and now appears to be causing trouble for the White House too. Cause of Action, a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan government watchdog, recently released a memo alleging that the IRS’s failure to preserve Lerner’s emails may constitute a violation of the Federal Records Act (FRA) and various criminal statutes.
The FRA requires that when agency records are accidentally removed (as the IRS alleges is what happened to Lerner’s emails when her computer crashed), the agency must promptly notify the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The agency must also work with the U.S. Archivist to initiate action through the Attorney General to start work on recovering the removed records. The Archivist testified that the IRS never notified his office of the computer crash, which, if true, was a direct violation of the FRA.
Cause of Action also alleges that the IRS may have criminally obstructed Congress by failing to preserve Lerner’s emails, seemingly based on the perhaps too good to be true coincidence of Lerner’s computer crashing only ten days after a request for emails. Cause of Action asserts that even if the IRS recovers all of Lerner’s emails, the agency still had the “evil purpose” of trying to obstruct Congress.
As a cherry on top, Cause of Action notes that if the President disposed of any email exchanges with Lerner without the consent of the Archivist and in consultation with Congress, this would have also been in violation of the federal records laws.
Although Cause of Action has recommended that Congress take action based on its findings, it’s unclear at this time whether that will happen. In the meantime, there is sure to be more drama on the Lerner scandal and we will keep you up to date.