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Lois Lerner's Missing E-mails; IRS Email Debate; World Cup Social Media Explosion

Aired June 27, 2014 - 09:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer grilled the new commissioner, John Koskinen, about those missing e-mail messages.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This looks fishy. The appearance is awful for the IRS right now. I'll give you an example, Lois Lerner. She was the woman who ran this audit division of tax-exempt organizations. She is the one who pled the Fifth, is refusing to cooperate, which is her constitutional right as we all know. Her computer hard drive, all of her e-mails, crashed 10 days after the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Kemp (ph), wrote a letter asking for specific information. All of a sudden her e-mails disappear. That looks suspicious, right?

JOHN KOSKINEN, IRS COMMISSIONER: It is suspicious. When we uncovered it, we pursued evidence to try to figure out what happened. We found a train of e-mails that the Congress has had for some time that noted that they worked extraordinarily hard to try to recover those e-mails. We also know that the crash occurred in June, but we have e-mails from April of 2011, so it was clear that people weren't wiping out e-mails. And we were able to find 24,000 e-mails from this period, so they all have not been lost.

BLITZER: But the U.S. archivist who testified before The Hill, you saw him probably testify, he said the IRS, in his words, "did not follow the law in preserving documents as required by the statute for public and official records." So someone broke the law.

KOSKINEN: The IRS has run an antiquated response to the records act, which everyone treats seriously, and that's because of the e-mail system. Official records in communications are printed out in hard copies. All of the information about taxpayers and their files are saved separately.

BLITZER: So some -- one of your predecessors, and shouldn't someone be blamed for the - this antiquated awful system that allowed official records to simply disappear?

KOSKINEN: Well, I think somebody could - the IG is investigating all of the issues about the hard drive crash. My approach when I parachute into these things is to try to fix the problems rather than trying to figure out how to blame. And some time ago I asked for us to review exactly how the e-mail system runs and whether we couldn't convert to a more searchable, more retainable e-mailing system. I've also said we need to respond to the concerns of the archivist who came out with a very interesting suggestion recently that, for agencies struggling moving forward into an electronic system, they should take the senior people and make sure all of those records and e-mails are preserved. I should emphasize that all e-mails are not official records. So if an e-mail is lost, it doesn't mean we've lost an official record.


COSTELLO: He talked about that antiquated system. This is hardly the first time pivotal e-mails have gone missing from a government organization and it likely won't be the last. So why does it keep happening? Tom Foreman is here with some answers.

Good morning, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, you know, for the skeptics, this sounds way too much like the dog ate my homework and way to much like the administration saying, no, let's not trouble ourselves with what went wrong, let's just look to the future. And what went wrong here, if something really went wrong, is pretty important because we're not just talking about words, we're talking about really big numbers.


FOREMAN (voice-over): If every federal worker in the executive branch alone sent and received as many e-mails as an average business user, that would be more than 326 million a day or 3,777 every second. That's a lot to keep track of, and now not only the IRS, but also the EPA is saying --

GINA MCCARTHY, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We may have some e-mails that we cannot produce that we should have kept.

FOREMAN: The IRS boss says part of the problem is budget cuts that have made it hard to maintain the government's vast network of computers, even though he admits this doesn't look good.

JOHN KOSKINEN, IRS COMMISSIONER: It is suspicious. When we uncovered it, we pursued evidence to try to figure out what happened. We found a train of e-mails that the Congress has had for some time that noted that they worked extraordinarily hard to try to recover those e-mails.

FOREMAN: Still, listen to what the U.S. archivist says about losing those records and not reporting it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did not follow the law.

FOREMAN: This is a longstanding problem. Back in 2008, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington noted that many agencies still print out documents and then physically store the paper, and millions of important records have been lost. In the controversial firings of those U.S. attorneys under President George W. Bush, some memos regarding the interrogation of terror suspects, and in the Bernie Madoff investigation, exchanges between government officials that are pure gold to watchdog groups.

ANNE WEISMANN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: It's unguarded moments where they say what really happened, what they're really thinking.

FOREMAN (on camera): That's why you want these e-mails kept?

WEISMANN: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This would be laughable if it wasn't so serious.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And sometimes it is laughable anyway. Listen to a former IRS attorney when asked if she even recalled who worked on the computers that held those all-important records.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think his first name may have been Ben.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So a guy named Ben. A dude named Ben.

FOREMAN: Undeniably, many government agencies try to manage the avalanche of information, but often it sounds like the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Even if they keep all the e-mails, where are the important ones? Maybe Ben knows.


FOREMAN: So, Carol, you see the problem. The explanation sounds an awful lot like an excuse. Is it valid? Maybe it is. But nobody can know until you get to the records. How come you can't get to the records? Well, here's the explanation. There are too many records out there. This is why the skeptics are so worked up about this, Carol, because they really do not like the fact that the IRS is saying, one hard drive on one computer was the only place where this information lived, when you can go to Target and for $100 buy enough storage to back up anybody's computer out there. It's very troubling to the investigators in this. Maybe they're on a wrong track. Maybe there's nothing that went wrong out here that was really wrong. But how are they going to know when the administration just basically keeps saying, trust us, trust us.

COSTELLO: Yes. And we all know the trust factor between our two branches of government. Tom --

FOREMAN: Oh, very -- and in government in itself, Carol, and in government itself.

COSTELLO: Yes, right. Exactly. Tom Foreman, many thanks.

I want to dig a little deeper on this. With me now, CNN political commentator Will Cain and CNN political analyst John Avlon. John Avlon's also editor in chief of "The Daily Beast." And Will Cain, you also write for "The Blaze." So welcome both -- to both of you.


COSTELLO: So, Senator Ted Cruz - JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: Good morning.

Senator Ted Cruz says a special prosecutor should be brought in to investigate. John, wouldn't that be a good idea?

AVLON: I'm not sure Ted Cruz is often accused of having good ideas when it comes to impartial inquiries. I think probably a special prosecutor is at this moment not necessary as is calling for the impeachment of the attorney general of the United States. What is necessary, though, is for the White House and Democrats to start taking this scandal seriously and for us to try to depoliticize it. Whenever Ted Cruz or Darrell Issa walks into these matters, it immediately turns it into a partisan hackathon as opposed to a search for the truth.

CAIN: No. No.

COSTELLO: So, Will, if a special prosecutor was called in, who would that be? What person could possibly appease both sides?

CAIN: First of all, I have to push back on my friend John. The only thing - the only thing pushing us towards the truth in this story right now is partisanship. The only thing revealing the evidence is the fact that there are Republicans pushing for this information.

Who that special prosecutor could be, Carol, I don't have a name for you. But I'll tell you why it's necessary to have a special prosecutor, because the government cannot investigate itself. And the only evidence you need of that is this. Josh Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, knew in February that those e-mail were missing, that that hard drive is crashed. In May he sat before Congress and said I will provide for you everything, all of the e-mails. And not until June did he then bury, in a 27-page report, that some were missing, that the hard drive was missing and two years of data was gone. If not - the IRS is not answering questions unless asked directly. It's not forthcoming. It's not giving information. A prosecutor needs to get in there and force it out of them.

COSTELLO: So, John, Lois Lerner, let's take her, she's pleaded the fifth. But if she would testify, wouldn't that go a long way toward ending this controversy?

AVLON: It sure would. And, look, politics is perception. The fact that Lois Lerner takes the fifth and then her e-mails magically disappear doesn't add anything to the administration's credibility on this issue. So I completely hear Will Cain's point.

But I -- just a couple reality checks are necessary. First of all, you know, over 25,000 of her e-mails have been handed over to the point that Tom Foreman made in his package before. Second of all, you know, the reason we're in this crisis situation isn't because any conservative groups had their applications denied. None were denied. Many were delayed. It's also an unintended consequence of Citizens United, which flooded the zone with a bunch of partisan organizations that wanted tax exempt status. And so that is part of the legacy we're dealing with here. That should not be lost because it's essential to understanding how we got here.

CAIN: That is - that is such -- John and I have had this conversation. That is explaining away or providing an excuse of what was clearly an ugly abuse of government power. You know, here's the best case scenario for the government at this point. This is the best case. And John knows this about me. My ultimate goal in any of these conversations isn't to indict President Barack Obama. It's to emphasize the truth and, in my estimation, which means reducing government power.

The best case scenario is, you have a bureaucracy run amuck, perhaps run by people with little authoritarian impulses to sit the IRS on senators with virtually no evidence they did anything wrong, as Lois Lerner did to Chuck Grassley. That's your best case scenario right now. An example of the problem with an expansive government. Your worst case scenario is much deeper.

COSTELLO: John, care to respond?

AVLON: No. Look, look, the authoritarian impulse argument here is shadowy and invoking spectors (ph) of Nixon. Frankly, part of the problem is that the IRS hasn't had the regulatory authority to deal with people who are trying to hijack, you know, non-profit status to pursue for-profit partisan aims with organizations that are supposed to be dedicated towards social welfare. So, I mean, you have a huge massive partisan economy that's trying to exploit Supreme Court decisions and exploit tax exempt status.

Their - look, I want to be very clear here, though. Democrats are in denial that this stinks to high heaven and this needs to be dealt with directly. And they can't simply wish it away. You know, America was founded on tax revolt. The IRS is nobody's idea of a good political ally right here. So they need to take it seriously. But, you know, when a bunch - when Ted Cruz is calling for Eric Holder's impeachment, we're deep into silly season rather than trying to deal with the problem.

CAIN: Just a quick point, Carol. Just a quick -

COSTELLO: Well, and I'll just - I'll just pose this final question to you - to you, Will.

CAIN: Yes. Right.

COSTELLO: OK. So we have a new IRS commissioner, right? Lois Lerner has been pushed out. The IRS admitted it, you know, there was wrongdoing involved and supposedly they're not doing it anymore. What is the end result? What does Ted Cruz want, criminal charges? Will that settle it?

CAIN: Well, there certainly should be criminal charges if this turns out to be true. The end result, Carol, has to be to find the truth. To find out if the government is actually representing all of the people in this country or if it singles out some people because of their political perspective for special treatment. It takes a special perspective to look at this situation and think that the answer to this is the IRS needs more power or more money. The IRS should be reduced to 10 guys in Washington, D.C., processing flat tax returns. That's what we need from the IRS, not some piece of government bureaucracy invading every one of our lives.

COSTELLO: I don't think that's going to happen any time soon. Right.

Will Cain, John Avlon, again I -

AVLON: Hey, I'll agree with Will Cain on the need for tax simplification, but it doesn't solve this particular problem right now.

COSTELLO: Yes, unfortunately not.

CAIN: Oh, it would do a lot.

COSTELLO: It would go a long way to solving many problems. Will Cain, you're right about that. John Avlon, thank you, too. I'll be right back.

CAIN: Thanks.


COSTELLO: For the first time ever, a U.S. soccer team has advanced to the second round of consecutive World Cups. Give a boatload of credit to the goalie, Tim Howard, who's made some fantastic saves in the first three matches of the tournament in Brazil. And the U.S. will be counting on Howard again when it plays Belgium on Tuesday.

CNN's Chris Cuomo talked with Howard a short time ago.


TIM HOWARD, GOALKEEPER, U.S. WORLD CUP SOCCER TEAM: I felt like all season I've been in good rhythm, you know, with my club team and I feel like it's carried over. So hopefully it can last a few games longer.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Now when you look at Belgium, how do you feel about them? How do you think you sized up against them?

HOWARD: I think we match up really well with them. Having said that, they're strong, they're powerful, you know, defensively they've been rock solid. In the attack they've got some dangerous and very tricky players. Very much like Germany. So we'll have our work cut out for us but we feel like we're strong and we're powerful and we've been playing some of the best soccer that this team has seen, so hopefully we'll give as good as we get.


COSTELLO: How popular is the World Cup when the United States team is playing with Tim Howard as the goalie? Just ask the techies over at ESPN. The Watch ESPN site actually crashed yesterday or as the sports network later put it, there were limited issues because of unprecedented demand specifically more than 1.4 million streams.

CNN technology analyst Brett Larson joins me now to tell us more about this.

This is insane.

BRETT LARSON, CNN TECHNOLOGY ANALYST: It is really insane, Carol. I was -- you know, I was traveling yesterday. I was at the airport and I noticed everyone going to the airport was like this, staring at their -- at their phones on escalators, on moving sidewalks, everywhere you went people were staring at their phones likely watching the World Cup game. It's -- I mean, this has been one of the -- you know, we're still in the game, that's probably part of the reason why we're all so very interested in it, but you know, we now have the technology to take the game with us.

We're sharing it on social media, so it seems likely that ESPN site would crash during that time when people are, you know, sitting at sports bars or sitting at work or out and about, just trying to stay in touch with what is going on with this very critical soccer match happening in Brazil.

COSTELLO: Well, I'm sure the Twitter-verse was on fire as well.

LARSON: Yes. This is -- this is fascinating. This is a heat map that Yahoo! put together that you can see as people are tweeting and they've linked it over a timeline of what's happening with the game so you kind of see this sort of real time picture. There you see, there's clearly a goal that just happened on one side or the other.

I was watching it this morning and it's fascinating because they've lined up the time and the score and you can see every time there's a score, it lights up in red all over the world of people tweeting and sending out their messages, and really kind of a fascinating thing.

I'm actually kind of surprised that Twitter didn't go down from all of the activity that they had yesterday, because you can see here, these are some of the funnier tweets that people were sending out.

John Legend apparently has a song that goes along with what happened to us yesterday, "Even when I lose, I'm winning."


Sounds very appropriate to me now. Surprisingly, though, the #worldcup and the #usa weren't trending yesterday on Twitter. But the World Cup was trending on Google. Over a million searches just yesterday for World Cup information.

And also Twitter is keeping an eye on the most mentioned players via the hashtags, if you put a hashtag next to the player Twitter is keeping a scoreboard of all of the players as they're mentioned, which I think the way this is going to boil down is if you take off some of your clothing during the game, your name will start to trend and that you could see, you know, there's a lot of U.S. players on there right now, because they had that locker room shot where they were all shirtless.

And I'm noticing a trend when the players go shirtless, they tend to start to trend. I think somehow those two things are related.

COSTELLO: I don't know why that would be.

LARSON: I don't -- I don't really understand that.

COSTELLO: I'm going to think about that all weekend by studying that picture closely.


LARSON: Exactly. I think a lot of people are going to be doing the very same thing.

COSTELLO: I think so.

Brett Larson, thanks so much. It was a lot of fun.

LARSON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: I'll be back in a minute.


COSTELLO: Checking some top stories at 53 minutes past the hour.

President Obama has asked Congress for $500 million to help train and equipped Syrian rebels. The White House says there would be a vetting process to make sure the money doesn't wind up in the hands of extremist. The move comes at a dicey time as the U.S. shares a common enemy with Syria's embattled government -- the terrorist fights who's invaded Iraq.

In the meantime, President Obama is in Minnesota for a second day pushing his plan to help the middle class. Yesterday he hosted a town hall meeting and made stops at local businesses. It's part of the president's latest attempt to get out of the White House and reach out to constituents.

Hillary Clinton's book "Hard Choices" taking a hard hit. Sales in the United States plummeting in the second week since the book's release and sales abroad, well, the Chinese publishers, they're refusing to sell the former first lady's memoirs.

New -- new trouble, rather, for actor Shia LaBeouf. He's due in court today to face criminal trespass and disorderly conduct charges after he was arrested last night at a Broadway show. Police say the actor got drunk, he lit up a cigarette, created a ruckus during a performance of "Cabaret Studio 54." Witnesses say the "Transformer" star was behaving strangely and staggering around in a torn shirt. Last year, the actor was accused of plagiarism.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.



COSTELLO (voice-over): Happening now in the NEWSROOM, suspicion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sources are telling us that the father as well as the stepmother are at least being investigated for child abuse.

COSTELLO: A stunning turn in the case of 12-year-old Charlie Bothuell.

NANCY GRACE, HLN HOST: Why won't police let you see the boy? Where is he?

COSTELLO: The parents are under scrutiny.

CHARLIE BOTHUELL, FATHER OF BOY FOUND IN BASEMENT: You know, I'm breaking a no comment rule.

COSTELLO: The parents of the boy found in the basement now under police scrutiny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There may be a cover-up here. He may be so slick and so innocent on the surface but maybe there are some deep-seated --

COSTELLO: Arming the rebels. President Obama asking for half a billion dollars.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in Syrian opposition.

COSTELLO: To train vetted opposition members, so what's a vetted rebel? And how do we know the weapons won't get into the wrong hands?

And without a "View." New this morning, Sherri Shepherd, Jenny McCarthy leaving the daytime show. It's now a tangle of one.

Let's talk live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

Happening now in Detroit, the stepmother of the young boy who was reported missing then weeks later is discovered in his very own basement is now in court.

Monique Dillard-Bothuell is facing charges on a probation violation stemming from weapons charges. But it's hoped her appearance might help shed some light on this very strange story. You might remember this awkward exchange on our sister network. HLN's Nancy Grace informed Charles Bothuell -- informs the little boy's father on live television that his 12-year-old son was found alive and well, hiding in the basement.

Last night, the father again spoke to Nancy Grace on the phone.