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Lois Lerner email warns IRS colleagues to hide info from Congress

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On Wednesday, the Washington Times reported that a newly-released email from embattled former IRS employee Lois Lerner warns fellow colleagues at the agency to “be cautious” about what they say in emails in the event of Congressional scrutiny.

“I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress ask asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails — so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails,” she wrote in a message dated April 9, 2013. In short, Lerner was warning colleagues to basically hide information members of Congress could use.

According to the Times, Lerner's message came just two weeks after the agency's internal auditor released a report accusing the IRS of targeting conservative and Tea Party organizations for extra scrutiny. A month later, Stephen Dinan said, Lerner planted a question at a conference to reveal the scandal.

The House oversight committee received the email last week -- more than a year after it was first sought by lawmakers looking into the scandal. Republican say the email proves Lerner knew Congress would investigate the targeting and attempted to hide information.

"Ms. Lerner’s emails have become a major scandal in and of themselves after the IRS revealed that her computer hard drive crashed in 2011, causing the agency to lose thousands of her messages," Dinan said. The IRS tried to retrieve the information, Dinan added, but were unable to. GOP lawmakers questioned the timing of the reported crash, and many found the IRS' explanations wanting.

IRS policy, Dinan added, was to print out emails as part of the public record, but William W. Taylor III, Lerner's attorney, told Politico she didn’t know about the requirement and didn’t print out any emails. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, however, told Congress he though she had printed out some emails.

Taylor, however, made a somewhat different statement Wednesday, blaming a "misunderstanding."

“During her tenure as director of Exempt Organizations, she did print out some emails, although not every one of the thousands she sent and received,” he said. “The facts are that Ms. Lerner did not destroy any records subject to the Federal Records Act, she did not cause the computer assigned to her to fail, and she made every effort to recover the files on the computer."

The American Center for Law and Justice, however, said the email proves Lerner and others at the IRS were in full cover-up mode. The ACLJ also observed that Koskinen, when asked, was completely unaware of the email and the internal messaging system Lerner inquired about.

"The deeper this investigation goes the worse it gets, and it’s going to get a lot worse. The IRS targeted conservatives, and then it tried to cover its tracks. This is a real scandal, the likes of which we may have never seen before," the ACLJ said.

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