House Committee Requests Testimony from White House Official

Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.) requested that Jennifer O’Connor of the White House Counsel’s office testify next week.

In a letter, Issa requested O’Connor’s appearance at a hearing on Tuesday at 9:30a, a day after IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is scheduled to testify. The Tuesday hearing is entitled, “IRS Obstruction: Lois Lerner’s Missing E-Mails, Part II.”

In a series of disclosures that began last Friday, the IRS notified Congress that it has “lost” two years worth of key emails to and from IRS manager Lois Lerner, a key figure in the tax agency’s alleged targeting of conservative groups. The loss was attributed to a computer crash.

Then, the IRS reportedly told Congress that it’s unable to produce emails from six more IRS employees involved in the investigation. They include Nikole Flax, the chief of staff to former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller. Miller has been fired.

Furthermore, the IRS reportedly told Congress that Lerner’s hard drive can never be produced for inspection because it has been “recycled.”

The eyebrow-raising revelations have prompted widespread skepticism from the public as well as information technology experts who insist that all traces of such documents cannot be accidentally obliterated.

The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch received documents through a Freedom of Information request that show Flax approved a request from Lerner to meet with Justice Department officials. The purpose was to consider a suggestion from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to criminally prosecute certain nonprofit groups for allegedly engaging in prohibited political activity.

Not all emails have been forever lost. Some that were obtained by the House Oversight Committee shows that Lerner and an associate sent over a million pages of data, including confidential taxpayer information, to the FBI. Critics say that may have been illegal.

In his letter today, Issa writes, “From May 2013 until November 2013, you served in a career position at the IRS as the Counselor to the Commissioner, with the primary task of ‘navigat[ing] the scandal over [the IRS’s] reviews of conservative organizations. In this position, you had a direct and substantial role in the IRS’s response to congressional requests for documents, including documents sent or received by Ms. Lerner. In fact, IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins, when asked who was supervising the collection of, ‘documents relating to the committee’s requests for material,’ responded ‘Tom Kane and Jennifer [O’Connor] are the two I would identify as the key supervisors.’ Given your prominent role in supervising the IRS’s document review and production processes, you likely knew or should have known that the IRS was missing a portion of e-mails sent or received by Ms. Lerner responsive to the Committee’s subpoena.”

According to Issa, O’Connor was promoted to the White House earlier this year.


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