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WASHINGTON (AP) — Eight federal employees connected to the tea party investigation experienced hard drive crashes, resulting in an unknown number of lost emails, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen told lawmakers Friday in an unusually tense congressional hearing.
A week ago the IRS acknowledged it could not produce some of the emails of the IRS executive at the center of the probe because her computer crashed in 2011. Koskinen acknowledged to lawmakers that the hard drive was recycled and presumably destroyed.
"I want that hard drive and I want the hard drive of every computer that crashed," said the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.
Koskinen said the IRS took extra measures to try to retrieve the lost emails. But he was unapologetic about the computer crashes or the period when the IRS advised Congress that emails it had sought were lost.
"I don't think an apology is owed," Koskinen said.
Koskinen says it's not clear whether all eight of the hard drive crashes resulted in lost emails.
Koskinen also said appointment of a special federal prosecutor to investigate the IRS handling of tax-exempt applications would be a "monumental waste of taxpayer funds."
The congressional investigation has been highly politicized because of allegations that the IRS improperly singled out tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status. Friday's hearing was unusually tense, as Camp and other Republicans occasionally interrupted Koskinen and continued to ask other questions before Koskinen had an opportunity to answer.
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