Ranking Democrat Calls Saga A Fishing Expedition Designed To Blame White House

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Contentious hearings on lost Internal Revenue Service emails got back underway in Washington on Tuesday.

There was plenty of heated back and forth, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

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There was skepticism on Capitol Hill about how the IRS lost emails dealing with the agency’s decision to target tea party and other conservative groups. The House is looking into the role of IRS official Lois Lerner, who claims her computer crashed and many of the emails are unrecoverable.

“Listen, I grew up in a bar. This doesn’t pass the straight-face test,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.

“I hope the witnesses before us today can help us understand further how we can have an agency that expects all Americans to maintain critical documents for at least seven years and in fact the agency itself systematically destroys records after six months,” added Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

On the witness stand was Jennifer O’Connor, a former IRS attorney who now works for the White House. O’Connor was part of the IRS team gathering materials for congressional investigations into the agency singling out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

She left the IRS before the agency discovered it was missing some of Lerner’s emails.

“In that time you’re telling us you did not have any inclination that a bunch of Lois Lerner’s emails were lost?” asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

“I did not know that her emails were missing and unrecoverable,” O’Connor responded.

Democrats said Tuesday’s hearing was a fishing expedition to tie the scandal to President Barack Obama.

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“There is still no evidence, none, that the White House was involved in any way,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.

The White House said it is cooperating.

“They’ve had as many congressional investigations into this in the last 24 hours as I’ve had meals,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

The current IRS commissioner was also grilled about the lost records. Chairman Issa accused John Koskinen of lying in March when he testified the IRS would provide all of Lerner’s emails.

“I did not say I would provide you emails that disappeared. If you have a magical way for me to do that I’d be happy to know about it,” Koskinen said.

The White House said it is turning over some 67,000 emails, some recovered because they were sent to other people.

The IRS commissioner said budget cutbacks and old computers make hard drive failures a regular occurrence. There have been 2,000 since January, Kramer reported.

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