Dem Strategist on IRS Emails: Bush Admin Lost Emails All The Time

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CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: The IRS and Koskinen says that Lois Lerner asked the IRS to try to recover, to fix, to go through her e-mail once it crashed, as soon as it crashed, in 2011, and they say they have been able by going to other people that the e-mails were sent to, to recover 67,000 of the e-mails she was involved in. So, I guess the question is what is your beef?

CLETA MITCHELL, ATTORNEY FOR TEA PARTY GROUPS: Well, there are several beefs. Let's start with the fact that the number of e-mails doesn't matter, because if there were 200,000 or 2 million, what matters is that the committee on House Oversight asked in June -- on June 9th of 2013, June 4TH of 2013, asked for, sent a letter asking for all of the e-mails of Lois Lerner specifically. In August, when they hadn't gotten a response, they issued a subpoena. They reissued that subpoena to Koskinen when he was commissioner late last year. And if you go back and look at the testimony, the hearing where he testified in March, the committee repeatedly, the members ask him about Lois Lerner's e-mails. When he's going to give us Lois Lerner's e-mails. He testified Friday that he knew as early as February about this computer glitch. What I think is appalling is that they have not answered the question, they didn't tell us, they didn't tell us a year ago. And I also want to say that I don't believe -- I'm with Paul Ryan. I don't believe him. They should have told, they should have come forward about this a year ago. There should have been a lot more investigation than what we've heard.

WALLACE: I want to pick up on what Cleta is saying, Julian, because here is why a lot of people are so suspicious. And take a look at this timeline that we put together. June 3rd, 2011, 2011, Chairman Camp, House Ways and Means, asked the IRS about the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax exempt status. June 13th, just ten days later, Lerner reports that her hard drive has crashed. February 2013, IRS realizes that the emails are missing. At least that's what they say. June 13th, 2014, the IRS finally tells Congress. Julian, I guess two questions. How do you explain this four-month delay between when the IRS says they knew the e-mails were missing and when they finally told Congress, and how do you explain this apparent coincidence that it is ten days after Congress starts asking about the e-mails that Lois Lerner says, oh, the hard drive has crashed?

JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER TOP DEMOCRATIC HOUSE STAFFER: So, let me say, I think anytime you have targeting of any group by the IRS, it's inappropriate, I think an apology in that instance is warranted. I think anytime when you have emails missing in the course of investigation, it's a problem. I think the idea that there is some cover-up, the way some Republicans are suggesting, I think is nonsense. The timing was coincidental, and I think perhaps unfortunate.

WALLACE: How do you know that?

EPSTEIN: Well, the timing, the outline -- the outline that you just suggested, but there's nobody that suggests, Chris, that there was any bad faith involved in the computer crash when the computer crashed ...

(CROSSTALK)

EPSTEIN: Let me finish my point, if I may. When the computer crashed, Lois Lerner immediately went to the IT professionals at IRS, the IRS IT professionals all confirm that. They all confirm they went to extraordinary lengths to try to recover that information.

MITCHELL: But the truth of the matter is, we don't know that. We have a few emails that were selectively produced that show that she was -- let me tell you what. If that had been my hard drive and that had happened, I would have been a little more outraged than she appeared to be. Then here are some other questions. I've had IRS employees who have e-mailed me this week who said all of their servers are not -- it's not one little computer in Washington. That there are servers in three different places in the United States. The IRS has a contract with a professional e-mail archiving company. I want to know why the FBI has not stepped forward and said what they have done to try to bring in their very sophisticated capabilities to understand what happened. So I don't think that we can say that there ...

EPSTEIN: Let me just finish the point. During the Bush administration, the Valerie Plame investigation, a contributor on this network came on to concede that 5 million emails may have been lost by the White House during the course of the U.S. attorney investigation, e-mails were misplaced, during the course of the torture memo investigation e-mails were lost. This isn't the first time this has happened. I think the question is, and the question for Cleta, is there any demonstration of any bad faith here? All of the administration ...

WALLACE: Great question. Let's get a quick answer. Because I want to move onto something else.

MITCHELL: I don't think we know the answer to that. I think there is bad faith in that this should have been known a year ago. It was known to the IRS a year ago, and it should have been disclosed a year ago.

WALLACE: OK, let me move on to another subject, and frankly, the bottom line subject. One of the groups pointed that you represent suing the IRS. It's a group called True the Vote, which saw tax exempt status back in 2010. The IRS finally favored and granted their application in 2013. Three years ...

MITCHELL: After we sued them.

WALLACE: Right.

MITCHELL: On the day they were to answer.

WALLACE: I understand your outrage, and I think a lot of people understand the outrage that it takes three years for that, but do you have any hard evidence that either the White House or the Obama campaign ordered the targeting of any conservative group? MITCHELL: Absolutely. All you have to do is look at the report. That the House Oversight Committee posted on its website, and they have a new website that has all of this information. And if you look at the timeline, and now I understand why the Democrats have been trying to shut ...

WALLACE: That's the point, do you have any hard evidence?

MITCHELL: That's because the president and members of Democratic senators and Democratic House members were beating on the IRS, demanding that the IRS do something to stop these conservative and Tea Party groups.

EPSTEIN: Who inside the White House, Cleta, and who inside treasury did this?

MITCHELL: The president of the United States went around the country giving speeches.

EPSTEIN: That is not hard evidence.

MITCHELL: Talking ...

EPSTEIN: I mean Chris is asking you a specific question and you're not answering the question.

MITCHELL: Well, let me ask you this.

EPSTEIN: No, answer the question.

MITCHELL: The pertinent time period that we would know whether there was such direct evidence has been conveniently lost.

EPSTEIN: Let me try to answer the question -- Can I respond to that?

WALLACE: Because I want to ask you about President Obama, who was as outraged initially as Cleta Mitchell was about the whole IRS scandal.

EPSTEIN: Appropriately so.

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