Susan Walsh, Associated Press
Investigators say they have recovered 32,000 emails related to a former IRS official at the heart of the agency's tea party scandal.

WASHINGTON — Investigators say they have recovered 32,000 emails related to a former IRS official at the heart of the agency's tea party scandal.

But they don't know if any of them are new.

The emails were to and from Lois Lerner, who used to head the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. Last June, the IRS told Congress it had lost an unknown number of Lerner's emails when her computer hard drive crashed in 2011.

IRS officials said the emails could not be recovered. But at a congressional hearing Thursday, IRS Deputy Inspector General Timothy Camus said investigators recovered thousands from old computer tapes.

However, the inspector general has not determined how many of the emails might be duplicates of the 78,000 Lerner emails already produced by the IRS.