WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Wednesday it was investigating the circumstances behind the disappearance of emails from a former senior Internal Revenue Service official, part of a broader criminal inquiry into whether the agency had targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
In testimony to be delivered today to a congressional committee, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said investigators are looking into emails that disappeared from the computer of Lois Lerner.
Cole was to appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has been investigating the matter.
The IRS has said it lost the emails in 2011 when Lois Lerner's computer crashed. At the time, Lerner headed the IRS division that deals with tax-exempt organizations.
Lerner, who refused to answer questions at two House committee hearings, has become a central figure in several congressional investigations into the handling of applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups. At both hearings, Lerner cited her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself. In May, the Republican-led House voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify.
Lerner's attorney, William Taylor III, declined to comment Wednesday.