Halfway through the Wednesday edition of her eponymous program this evening, CNN's Erin Burnett turned to her colleague Joe Johns for breaking news regarding a fresh development in the IRS scandal: email evidence suggesting Lois Lerner may have pushed for an audit of Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.
Immediately afterwards, in a panel discussion, CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin endorsed calls coming from Republicans for a special prosecutor to look into the IRS scandal.
"A series of e-mails released by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee suggests that in December of 2012 Lois Lerner asked another IRS employee whether to refer to examination, another word for audit, an invitation to Grassley to attend a speaking event," Johns explained, noting that Lerner had accidentally received Grassley's invite "due to a mixup in the mail."
While cautioning that "the emails don't clearly indicate" whether Lerner was seeking an investigation "of the organization, or the senator, or both" and "so there's more to the story that we don't know."
Asked by Burnett about Sen. Grassley's reaction, Johns then cited a Grassley statement about how "this kind of thing fuels the deep concerns many people have about political targeting by the IRS and by officials at the highest levels."
It's "[o]bviously very troubling when you consider, of course, that thousands of emails from Lois Lerner are now supposedly missing forever," Burnett concluded before turning to reaction from a panel consisting of liberal Democrat Paul Begala, moderate Republican Margaret Hoover, and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin.
Asked for his thoughts, veteran Clinton defender Begala, no Tea Partier he, admitted that the new revelation "really does seem outrageous" and "as a political matter... how could it get worse? It's just outrageous."
At that point, Hoover chimed in by endorsing Rep. Dave Camp's (R-Mich.) call for a special prosecutor:
Day after day, the story gets worse and worse and worse, and frankly, Americans, liberals and conservatives, everybody has a vested interest in making sure that the IRS is a fair organization that abides by the letter of the law. And it is time for a special prosecutor to be appointed.
Asked for her thoughts, Hostin agreed that a special prosecutor would be warranted.
"I think so.... This is smelly. This is legally smelly in my view," Hostin insisted, adding that the whole missing emails claim "sounds kind of strange" because "you can retrieve emails from a hard drive that has been shot at, burned, and thrown in the ocean."
"I think it is time to dig into this just a little bit further," Hostin argued.