Eight months after Congress requested emails from embattled IRS official Lois Lerner, tax agency employees "magnetically erased" hundreds of backup tapes.
"The IRS did not put forth an effort to locate and preserve the backup tapes," said Timothy Camus, deputy inspector general for investigations with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. He said 422 backup tapes were destroyed.
The new details about the IRS watchdog's year-long efforts to uncover Lerner's missing emails emerged during a hearing Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., blasted inspector general officials for leaking speculative numbers of Lerner emails to the press as the investigation unfolded.
"In February, officials from the IG's office briefed our committee and others reporting that they had found 80,000 emails from Ms. Lerner, a fact that was leaked to the press with great fanfare," Cummings said.
"The IG will testify that the total has plummeted to a little more than 1,000 emails that Congress didn't already have," he added. "Well, that's a hell of a drop." Cummings added later that, "time and time again, your numbers were just wrong."
He was joined by Republicans in their anger toward the IRS.
"The truth is not being told," said Rep. Jody Hice, R-Fl. "The directive to not destroy tapes could not have been more clear."
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