Except unlike Watergate, they’re not tapes. They’re Lois Lerner’s emails:
“Tea Party Matter very dangerous,” Ms. Lerner wrote in the 2011 email, saying that those applications could end up being the “vehicle to go to court” to get more clarity on a 2010 Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance rules.
In another email, from 2012, Ms. Lerner acknowledges that the agency’s handling of the tax-exempt applications had been bungled at the beginning, though she said steps had been taken to correct problems.
“It is what it is,” she wrote in the email, released Thursday by the Ways and Means Committee. “Although the original story isn’t as pretty as we’d like, once we learned [that we were] off track, we have done what we can to change the process, better educate our staff and move the cases. So, we will get dinged, but we took steps before the ‘dinging’ to make things better and we have written procedures.”
That email suggests that agency employees knew they had gone overboard in their scrutiny — despite top IRS officials telling Congress that there was no special scrutiny of conservative groups.
In another 2012 email, Ms. Lerner seemed to take sides in a battle between the Federal Election Commission and conservative tax-exempt groups that were engaging in politics, saying “perhaps the FEC will save the day.”
So now we know several things. The original story about “rogue agents in Cincinnati” was a lie. We also know that there is a culture at the IRS that finds this
unacceptable (perhaps the most disturbing thing, because it’s a lot harder to fix than firing someone at the top). And we know at least some of the reason why she took the fifth.