A sloppy mistake, the government calls it, but you couldn't blame a person for suspecting a cover-up — the loss of an untold number of emails to and from the central figure in the IRS tea-party controversy. And because the public's trust is a fragile gift that the White House has frittered away in a series of second-term missteps, President Obama needs to act.
If the IRS can't find the emails, maybe a special prosecutor can.
The announcement came late Friday, a too-cute-by-half cliche of a PR strategy to mitigate backlash. "The IRS told Congress it cannot locate many of Lois Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed during the summer of that year," the Associated Press reported.
Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by tea-party and other conservative groups.
At issue is whether the IRS probes were politically motivated and directed by the White House. Congressional investigators were hoping for answers in Lerner's emails.
The IRS also screened liberal groups, which Democrats claim as proof that there was no abuse of power. That's wishful thinking. The fact that liberal groups were screened is mitigating, not dispositive.