Lawmakers: IRS lost more emails in tea party probe

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Lawmakers: IRS lost more emails in tea party probe
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Lois Lerner, former director of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division at the Internal Revenue Service(IRS), listens during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chairman Darrell Issa(R-CA) questioned witness Lerner, to see if the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting US citizens based on their political beliefs. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the media follow Lois Lerner, the director of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) exempt organizations office, left, after a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Lerner, the mid-level IRS official at the center of a controversy over treatment of small-government groups, invoked her right not to testify after reading a statement denying that she had committed any crimes. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10:Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) looks on during a House Oversight Committee meeting to determine whether or not to hold IRS Official Lois Lerner in contempt, on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. After debate, the committee voted 21-12 to hold her in contempt and refer the matter to the full House of Representatives. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Lois Lerner, former director of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division at the Internal Revenue Service(IRS), is re-sworn-in for a continuation of a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee held the hearing to see if the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting US citizens based on their political beliefs. Lerner once again invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Lois Lerner, the director of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) exempt organizations office, listens during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Lerner, the mid-level IRS official at the center of a controversy over treatment of small-government groups, invoked her right not to testify after reading a statement denying that she had committed any crimes. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. The widening inquiries into the IRS are focusing less on why employees singled out small-government groups for scrutiny and more on agency executives who didn't inform Congress earlier. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
This Thursday, Jan. 9, 2013 photo, shows a 2013 1040-ES IRS Estimated Tax form at H & R Block tax preparation office in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles. “The United States income tax is a pay-as-you-go tax, which means that tax must be paid as you earn or receive your income during the year,” the IRS says. “You can either do this through withholding or by making estimated tax payments.” (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, prior to testifying before the House Oversight Committee hearing probing whether tea party groups were improperly targeted for increased scrutiny by the government’s tax agency. Earlier this month, IRS official Lois Lerner was called to testify about the controversy but refused to answer questions by committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and invoked her Fifth Amendment rights at least nine times. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this Thursday, Jan. 9, 2013 photo, H & R Block public accountant, John Lee, explains how to file the 2013 1040-ES IRS Estimated Tax forms at his H & R Block tax preparation office in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles. “The United States income tax is a pay-as-you-go tax, which means that tax must be paid as you earn or receive your income during the year,” the IRS says. “You can either do this through withholding or by making estimated tax payments.” (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Tea party activists attend a rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 19, 2013. The IRS has been under fire from Democrats and Republicans in Congress since May, when one of its officials publicly apologized for targeting conservative groups' applications for tax-exempt status for close examination. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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By Stephen Ohlemacher

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Internal Revenue Service has lost more emails connected to the tea party investigation, congressional investigators said Tuesday.

The IRS said last Friday it had lost an untold number of emails when Lois Lerner's computer crashed in 2011. Lerner used to head the division that handles applications for tax-exempt status.

On Tuesday, two key lawmakers said the IRS has also lost emails from six additional IRS workers whose computers crashed. Among them was Nikole Flax, who was chief of staff to Lerner's boss, then-deputy commissioner Steven Miller.

Miller later became acting IRS commissioner, but was forced to resign last year after the agency acknowledged that agents had improperly scrutinized tea party and other conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status. Documents have shown some liberal groups were also flagged.

Investigators from the House Ways and Means Committee interviewed IRS technicians Monday. The technicians said they first realized that Lerner's emails were lost in February or March - months before they informed congressional investigators, said a statement by two top Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, chairman Dave Camp of Michigan and subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany of Louisiana.

The two lawmakers called on the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS, something Attorney General Eric Holder has declined to do in the past.

"It looks like the American people were lied to and the IRS tried to cover up the fact it conveniently lost key documents in this investigation," said the statement by Camp and Boustany. "The White House promised full cooperation, the commissioner promised full access to Lois Lerner emails and now the agency claims it cannot produce those materials and they've known for months they couldn't do this."

The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is scheduled to testify before the Ways and Means Committee next Tuesday. The House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed Koskinen to testify at a rare evening hearing on Monday.

The two House committees and the Senate Finance Committee are investigating the IRS over its handling of tea party applications from 2010 to 2012. The Justice Department and the IRS inspector general are also investigating.

Congressional investigators have shown that IRS officials in Washington were closely involved in the handling of tea party applications, many of which languished for more than a year without action. But so far, they have not publicly produced evidence that anyone outside the agency directed the targeting or even knew about it.

If anyone outside the agency was involved, investigators were hoping for clues in Lerner's emails.

Lerner's computer crashed in the summer of 2011, depriving investigators of many of her prior emails. Flax's computer crashed in December 2011, Camp and Boustany said.

The IRS said Friday that technicians went to great lengths trying to recover data from Lerner's computer in 2011. In emails provided by the IRS, technicians said they sent the computer to a forensic lab run by the agency's criminal investigations unit. But to no avail.

The IRS was able to generate 24,000 Lerner emails from the 2009 to 2011 period because Lerner had copied in other IRS employees. Overall, the IRS said it is producing a total of 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering the period from 2009 to 2013.

The IRS said Friday that more than 250 IRS employees have been working to assist congressional investigations, spending nearly $10 million to produce more than 750,000 documents.

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