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IRS official: Lois Lerner email trail may not be cold

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A top IRS official is now uncertain about whether backup tapes of the lost Lois Lerner emails may exist, according to testimony released by Republicans — a potentially significant plot twist in the controversy that has shaken the IRS in recent weeks.

IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane, who oversees the tax-collecting agency’s document production to Congress, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in private testimony that he’s now unsure whether all the backup tapes with correspondence from the ex-IRS official were recycled.

“I don’t know if there is a backup tape with information on it or there isn’t,” he told investigators Thursday, according to a partial transcript released by Republicans on the committee Monday.

The IRS official suggested new information has come to light since the IRS revealed in a June 13 letter to Congress that two years of Lerner emails were lost in a 2011 computer crash. Lerner was the head of the tax-exempt division that singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny and since has become a lightning rod for Republicans probing the matter.

The IRS had said no copies of Lerner’s correspondence were available because the agency at the time backed up emails for only six months on tapes — then recycled the tapes for reuse, essentially erasing the data. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen also testified to the matter before lawmakers.

Kane suggested that might not be the case.

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