WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., believes the scandal surrounding the Internal Revenue Service could bring down the White House.
“It’s a scandal of epic proportions, big enough that it could bring down a presidency,” Bachmann told Fox News. “The only thing that’s phony are all of the denials that are coming out of the White House.”
The IRS recently revealed that former director Lois Lerner’s emails were lost when her computer crashed, wiping out an untold number of emails that were being sought by congressional investigators for her role in the agency’s controversy that they improperly scrutinized applications by some Tea Party groups.
Last week, a federal court ordered the U.S. government to pay $50,000 to conservative group the National Organization for Marriage after confidential information from its tax returns about its donors was published on the website of a political opponent.
John Eastman’s group opposes same-sex marriage. The information about his organization’s donors ended up being published in 2012 by the Human Rights Campaign, which supports gay rights.
Bachmann says she would have faced jail time if she did this while she was a tax official.
“As a former tax official, if I would have done that as an employee of the IRS, I would have been referred to the Justice Department, the criminal division,” Bachmann told Fox News. “I would have not only lost my job, I would have been subject to a felony of five years hard time, in a federal penitentiary. That’s what we are talking about, that’s how serious this is. The IRS has broken laws and the American people need a redress of this grievance.”
Bachmann added that the scandal surrounding Lerner and the IRS is only the beginning.
“We also know that over 1.1 million documents were wrongfully sent by Lois Lerner to the Justice Department criminal division. The criminal division only looks at employee behavior but yet Lois Lerner wanted the Justice Department to look at the behavior of the non-profits themselves,” Bachmann explained to Fox News.
The IRS said 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 because Lerner had copied in other IRS employees. The agency said it pieced together the emails from the computers of 82 other IRS employees.
But an untold number are gone.
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 is committed to working with Congress,” the IRS said in a statement. “The IRS has remained focused on being thorough and responding as quickly as possible to the wide-ranging requests from Congress while taking steps to protect underlying taxpayer information.”
Lerner has emerged as a key figure in the Tea Party probe. In May 2013, she was the first IRS official to publicly acknowledge that agents had improperly scrutinized applications.
About two weeks later, Lerner was subpoenaed to testify at a congressional hearing. But after making a brief statement in which she said she had done nothing wrong, Lerner refused to answer questions, invoking her constitutional right against self-incrimination.
The IRS placed Lerner on administrative leave shortly after the congressional hearing. She retired last fall.
In May, the House voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress. Her case has been turned over to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
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