The IRS commissioner said Wednesday that the agency had effectively halted its own probe into former official Lois Lerner’s missing emails to allow an inspector general IG investigation to take precedence.
John Koskinen, testifying before the House Oversight Committee for the third time in the last month, said Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration had asked the IRS to stop interviewing staffers, while it looks into Lerner’s 2011 hard drive crash.
That left Koskinen with little to add to his previous testimony, even as Republicans pressed him with new questions about whether tapes backing up Lerner’s emails still existed, whether agency higher-ups knew emails were missing in February and whether Lerner’s hard drive had been merely “scratched.”
“We made a commitment to the IG that we would honor his priority, that we would not do anything that would interfere with his investigation,” said Koskinen, who repeatedly insisted that he stood by his previous comments.
“He could talk to anybody he wanted, they could look at any evidence they wanted,” he continued. “And we would not have an ongoing discussion with any of the witnesses he was talking to, because we did not want to interfere.”
The IRS chief had previously said he learned there was an issue with Lerner’s emails in February, and in April that emails were lost. He said the agency disclosed the missing emails after working to recover some 24,000 of Lerner’s emails from the accounts of other IRS staffers.
On Wednesday, Koskinen said that the inspector general was examining whether any additional information could be gleaned from back-up tapes that the IRS had said were recycled.
But Republicans weren’t buying Koskinen’s testimony.