Justice Department looks into IRS email incident

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating missing emails for former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner, according to testimony that Deputy Attorney General James Cole prepared for a hearing Thursday.

The House subcommittee on economic growth, job creation and regulatory affairs, headed by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has called on Cole to testify about the matter. Cole said in his prepared remarks that the Justice Department is "investigating the circumstances of the lost emails from Ms. Lerner's computer." The Wall Street Journal first reported his planned remarks.

Lerner is a central figure in the agency's targeting controversy. The IRS has said it lost many of her emails when her computer crashed in June 2011. The agency said it subsequently destroyed her hard drive as a matter of protocol after trying to recover the data with help from technical experts, including IRS forensic specialists.

"Finally, someone in the administration admits that the destruction of two years of emails from Lois Lerner is fishy," Jordan said in a statement Wednesday. He added that there are still "significant bipartisan concerns with the administration's overall investigation."

The House approved a resolution in May calling on the Justice Department to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the IRS' targeting of nonprofit advocacy groups based on their names and policy positions, an issue the agency's inspector general detailed in a report last year.

The measure passed by a vote of 250 to 168, with 26 Democrats voting in favor of it. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has also requested that the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor.

In May, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. issued a letter to Cruz declining to make the appointment. He said it "is not warranted" because the IRS case does not present a conflict of interest for the investigators who have examined the targeting issue.

Jordan and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., have criticized the Justice Department for allowing Barbara Bosserman, an attorney who donated heavily to President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, to help lead the agency's review of the IRS matter.

The Justice Department has said that there was nothing inappropriate about selecting Bosserman to assist with the probe, and that the agency is prohibited from taking her political leanings into account before making personnel decisions.

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