The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

July 17, 2014

Justice Dept: Missing emails now part of IRS probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Justice Department investigation into the Internal Revenue Service has expanded to include an inquiry into the disappearance of emails from a former senior IRS official.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole was to update Congress on Thursday about the department's investigation into whether the agency targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. He also was expected to tell members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that investigators now were looking into emails that went missing from the computer of Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that deals with tax-exempt organizations.

The IRS has said it lost the emails in 2011 when Lerner's computer crashed.

Lerner, who refused to answer questions at two House committee hearings, has become a central figure in several congressional investigations into the handling of applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups. At both hearings, Lerner cited her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself. In May, the Republican-led House voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify.

Lerner's attorney, William Taylor III, declined to comment Wednesday.

The disclosure by Lerner in May 2013 that the IRS had engaged in "inappropriate" targeting of conservatives set off a political firestorm that continues to flare this election year. And Wednesday's revelation that investigators were broadening their inquiry to include the missing emails comes as Republican members of Congress accuse the Obama administration of not cooperating with their investigation and failing to take the matter seriously enough. They have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate, which he has resisted.

"The IRS investigation was launched by the department without hesitation and immediately after Ms. Lerner publicly acknowledged the potential misconduct," Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said in a statement. The probe remains a top priority for the department, she said.

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