Issa: ‘Ability to Remember at IRS Is Simply Limited’

Ali Meyer | June 25, 2014 | 8:27am EDT
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House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

( – IRS employees seem to have trouble remembering things, a frustrated Republican told Congress on Tuesday.

“I think that, in fact, the ability to remember at the IRS is simply limited,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which he chairs.

Issa made the comment after Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked former IRS attorney Jennifer O’Connor to name some of the people she worked with during her brief tenure at the IRS. She couldn’t or wouldn’t say.

“Why are you being so elusive?" Chaffetz asked O’Connor. “You named three people that you report to. I want to hear people that you asked questions to -- that ran, got the information and then came back and gave you information. Name one person in that category.”

Issa interrupted the exchange: “Mr. Chairman, you know I think you may be unfair to the witness.” Issa noted that the night before, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen could not remember when he was told about Lois Lerner’s missing emails – nor could Koskinen remember who at the IRS told him about them.

“I think that, in fact, the ability to remember at the IRS is simply limited,” Issa said.

Issa subpoenaed O’Connor – now part of the White House Counsel’s office – to testify on Tuesday after the White House initially declined to make her available on a voluntary basis.

“A year ago, when news broke that the IRS had targeted Americans because of their political beliefs, President Obama pledged, ‘We will work with Congress as it performs its oversight role.’ I’m disappointed that one year later, the White House has attempted to block this committee’s first request for voluntary cooperation from a White House official,” Issa told the hearing on Tuesday.

He called her a “hostile witness,” but later corrected himself, saying O’Connor should be described as a “non-cooperative witness.”

Issa noted that O’Connor, while at the IRS, had “directly managed the IRS (document) production or lack thereof to this committee and others.”

According to testimony from the IRS chief counsel, O’Connor was hired by the IRS for the sole purpose of overseeing the agency’s response to congressional investigations of the IRS targeting scandal,” Issa said.

“Before her promotion to the White House, Ms. O’Connor led the response to the Congressional targeting inquiry and she is uniquely qualified to explain why attorneys did not focus on and flag Lerner’s lost e-mails at the outset,’” said Issa.

But in her testimony, O’Connor explained very little. She said she did not know, while working at the IRS from May-November 2013, that some of Lois Lerner’s emails “were missing and unrecoverable.”

“I’m happy to answer questions about my time at the IRS,” she told the committee. But she dodged questions about her time in the White House Counsel’s office.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wanted to know if anyone in the White House Counsel's office had told the FBI or the Justice Department about Lois Lerner’s missing emails. He did not get an answer.

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