Obama-administrasjonen lot det fredag kveld bli kjent at all epost tilhørende Lois Lerner som er under etterforskning for å ha diskriminert Tea Party-organisasjoner i skattesaker, er forsvunnet.
Flere kongresskomiteer undersøker om Skatteetaten bevisst diskriminerte Tea Party og andre konservative organisasjoner. Saken ble kjent i 2010 og våren 2013 ble det konstatet at Skatteetaten, IRS, hadde blitt brukt politisk. Nonprofot-organisasjoner skulle få skattefritak, men Lois Lerner lot søknader fra Tea Party-organisasjoner drukne i kritiske spørsmål. Lerner trakk seg i september ifjor. Hun har to ganger nektet å forklare seg for kongresskomiteer. Det har tatt ett år før Skatteetaten gjør kjent at epostene for en kritisk toårsperiode er borte.
«Liars. They’re such liars. Unbelievable,» charged Washington attorney Cleta Mitchell, who is representing several groups in a federal lawsuit over the targeting in their applications for tax-exempt status. «This is outrageous. They’re lying.
«This is like the 18-and-a-half minutes in Rose Mary Woods’ tape,» Mitchell said, referring to the gap in the audio tape of a June 20, 1972, conversation believed to have been held between Nixon and Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman. «It’s ridiculous. I just don’t believe them.»
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the groups that received its tax-exempt status after suing the IRS, said the revelation «doesn’t pass the smell test and smacks of obstruction of justice.»
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing 41 targeted groups in a federal lawsuit against the IRS, said «this is insanity.»
«Hollywood couldn’t write a script with any more scandal and intrigue than what is unfolding in the IRS targeting scandal,» he said in a report on the organization’s website.
And Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, suggested that the White House was being dishonest in saying that the emails were lost.
«Isn’t it convenient for the Obama administration that the IRS now says it has suddenly realized it lost Lois Lerner’s emails requested by Congress and promised by Commissioner John Koskinen?» the California Republican asked in a statement. «Do they really expect the American people to believe that, after having withheld these emails for a year, they’re just now realizing the most critical time period is missing?»
The Internal Revenue Service told Congress late Friday that it could not locate many of Lerner’s emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed that summer.
The scrutiny started in 2010 and continued to just before the 2012 presidential election. Besides the Tea Party Patriots, other groups targeted were True the Vote, the Houston-based organization that combats election fraud, and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a nonprofit political group advised by Republican strategist Karl Rove.
When she first appeared before the oversight committee not long after the scandal broke, Lerner denied wrongdoing but refused to answer questions, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She took the Fifth in a second hearing before the panel in March.