Lerner Email Warned IRS Employees of Emails That ‘Can Be Seen By Congress’

By Brittany M. Hughes | April 10, 2015 | 3:08pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) -- Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), warned other IRS officials that lower-level employees “are not as sensitive as we are to the fact that anything we write can be public--or at least be seen by Congress,” according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch and released on Thursday.

Lois Lerner, former IRS director of Exempt Organizations. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In the latest batch of documents the IRS released to Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which the agency heavily redacted before handing over, Lerner proposed training to help IRS employees “understand the pitfalls” of discussing “specific Congress people, practitioners and political parties” in emails that could be "seen by Congress" or the public.

“We are all a bit concerned about the mention of specific Congress people, practitioners and political parties. Our filed folks are not as sensitive as we are to the fact that anything we write can be public--or at least be seen by Congress,” Lerner wrote in an email to Holly Paz, former director of the IRS Office of Rulings and Agreements, on Feb. 16, 2012.

“We talked with Nan and she thought it would be great if R & A could put together some training points to help them understand the potential pitfalls, as well as how to think about referrals,” Lerner continued.

"Nan" refers to Nanette Downing, director of the Exempt Organizations (EO) Examinations Unit. Downing was copied on Lerner's email to Paz, along with Tom Miller, EO technical adviser, and Judy Kindell and Sharon Light, both advisers to Lerner.

“As a starting point, Nan has sent up a bunch of papers that I asked Tom Miller to review to provide feedback to Sharon/Judy -- or whomever we decide should draft the training,” Lerner wrote, adding, “I realize everyone is very busy, but I'd like you and Tom to get together to work out a reasonable plan for completing the review and reporting back on some of the issues he thinks we'd need to cover. If you need more info, we can talk.”

Computer hard drive. (AP)

Downing responded to Lerner and Paz at 6:17 p.m. on Feb. 17, saying, “I thought we were going to have Judy and Sharon talk to my front line managers about this at the next quarterly managers call. I believe it is scheduled for March 15h [sic]. I think Nancy Todd has already reached out to Judy and Sharon to get them on the agenda. I have had a discussion with the Area Managers but agree we need a more in depth discussion with the front line managers.”

Lerner responded at 7:53 p.m., warning, “I don't want to wait to [sic] long.”

Lerner resigned from the IRS in 2013 following the agency's admission that the Exempt Organizations Unit, under Lerner’s leadership, had unfairly targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012.

At a hearing before the House Oversight Committee on May 22, 2013, Lerner alleged she had not broken any laws before invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refusing to testify further.

The Internal Revenue Service Headquarters (IRS) building in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

In June of 2014, the IRS informed Congress that it had lost two years worth of Lerner’s emails, which had been subpoenaed as part of the congressional investigation, due to a mid-2011 computer crash. However, it was revealed last November that investigators with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) were able to recover more than 30,000 of the emails the IRS claimed were permanently lost.

Judicial watch filed a FOIA lawsuit on Feb. 18, 2015, demanding “any and all records related to the destruction of damaged hard drives from IRS employee computers from January 1, 2010, to the present.”

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