The Justice Department is looking into the loss of a former Internal Revenue Service official's e-mails, according to a senior justice official.
But the official says it's part of the overall investigation into allegations that the IRS targeted conservative organizations for additional scrutiny and audits.
The IRS notified Congress last month that it could not find all of Lois Lerner's e-mails from January 2009 to May 2011, when she was in charge of an IRS office that dealt with tax exempt groups. Lerner is at the center of the IRS controversy and invoked the Fifth Amendment right when she appeared in front of Congress.
Officials say the lost emails are "not being looked at as a potential crime or obstruction of justice," only an effort to recover all evidence.
"If it turns out there was a potential crime in the loss of the e-mails, obviously they would take it in that direction," the official added.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole testifies Thursday before a House committee about the progress of the overall investigation of the IRS.
In his prepared testimony, he says: "We cannot disclose non-public information about the investigation while it remains pending....I can, however, tell you that the investigation includes investigating the circumstances of the lost emails from Ms. Lerner's computer."
First published July 16 2014, 3:20 PM
Pete Williams is an NBC News correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He has been covering the Justice Department and the U.S. Supreme Court since March 1993. Williams was also a key reporter on the Microsoft anti-trust trial and Judge Jackson's decision.
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Prior to joining NBC, Williams served as a press official on Capitol Hill for many years. In 1986 he joined the Washington, D.C. staff of then Congressman Dick Cheney as press secretary and a legislative assistant. In 1989, when Cheney was named Assistant Secretary of Defense, Williams was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. While in that position, Williams was named Government Communicator of the Year in 1991 by the National Association of Government Communicators.
A native of Casper, Wyo. and a 1974 graduate of Stanford University, Williams was a reporter and news director at KTWO-TV and Radio in Casper from 1974 to 1985. Working with the Radio-Television News Directors Association, for which he served as a member of its board of directors, he successfully lobbied the Wyoming Supreme Court to permit broadcast coverage of its proceedings and twice sued Wyoming judges over pre-trial exclusion of reporters from the courtroom. For these efforts, he received a First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.