House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and 18 Republican members of his committee have introduced a resolution to begin proceedings in the House to impeach Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen.
“Commissioner Koskinen violated the public trust,” Chaffetz said in a statement Tuesday. “He failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch, and the public was consistently misled. Impeachment is the appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and to protect the institutional interests of Congress. This action will demonstrate to the American people that the IRS is under repair, and signal that executive branch officials who violate the public trust will be held accountable.”
The resolution accuses Koskinen of violating the public trust by failing to fully comply with a subpoena for emails from Lois Lerner, the former director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations unit, who was ousted in 2013 after admitting that the IRS had used inappropriate terms such as “Tea Party” and “Patriot” to filter through applications from political groups seeking tax-exempt status. The committee chairman said the IRS erased 422 backup tapes containing up to 24,000 of Lerner’s emails and failed to notify Congress the evidence was missing. Chaffetz also claims Koskinen “failed to testify truthfully and provided false and misleading information” when he said the IRS turned over all emails relevant to the congressional investigation, including all of Lerner’s emails. When the agency determined Lerner’s emails were missing, Koskinen testified the emails were unrecoverable, although many of the missing emails were later recovered by the Treasury Inspector for Tax Administration. The resolution will go to the House Judiciary Committee for deliberation.
The IRS disputed the charges in the House Republicans’ resolution. “The IRS vigorously disputes the allegations in the resolution,” said a statement emailed by an IRS spokesman to Accounting Today. “We have fully cooperated with all of the investigations.”
The ranking Democrat on Chaffetz’s committee, Elijah Cummings, D-Md., condemned the impeachment resolution.
“Just as in the Benghazi and Planned Parenthood investigations, it appears that facts simply don’t matter to Republicans,” Cummings said in a statement. “There is zero evidence that Commissioner Koskinen engaged in these acts—to the contrary, the IRS has now spent $20 million and 160,000 employee hours cooperating with this misguided investigation with no evidence of any political targeting. This ridiculous resolution will demonstrate nothing but the Republican obsession with diving into investigative rabbit holes that waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars while having absolutely no positive impact on a single American. Calling this resolution a ‘stunt’ or a ‘joke’ would be insulting to stunts and jokes. Instead of squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on baseless partisan attacks, the committee should focus on issues that matter to all Americans, like bringing down the costs of prescription drugs, as I have requested for the past year with no success.”
Cummings pointed out that on July 2, 2015, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a report concluding, “No evidence was uncovered that any IRS employees had been directed to destroy or hide information from Congress, the DOJ or TIGTA.” The TIGTA investigation also “did not uncover evidence that the IRS and its employees purposely erased the tapes in order to conceal responsive e-mails from the Congress, the DOJ and TIGTA.” In addition, interviews of IRS employees “provided no evidence that the IRS employees involved intended to destroy data on the tapes or the hard drives in order to keep this information from Congress, the DOJ or TIGTA.”
He also noted that the Department of Justice issued a letter last Friday declining to press criminal charges in the case (see DOJ Closes Investigation of IRS Targeting Scandal Without Criminal Charges).
The letter stated, “We found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution. We also found no evidence that any official involved in the handling of tax-exempt applications or IRS leadership attempted to obstruct justice.”
On Tuesday, Koskinen testified before the Senate Finance Committee about how the IRS has been responding to recommendations from the committee and TIGTA for improving the way the IRS handles applications for tax-exempt status (see Senate Probes IRS Changes on Tax-Exempt Application Review). Koskinen reported that the IRS has carried out many of the recommendations, including speeding up its review of applications for 501(c)4 and 501(c)3 status and reducing the backlog to just a handful. Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told him at the conclusion of the hearing that he had a high opinion of Koskinen and believed he was trying to fix the agency, but added that he might get in trouble with some of his colleagues in the House for saying so.
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