IRS Head John Koskinen Won't Show Up to Impeachment Hearing, Sends Statement Instead

By:
Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
May 24, 2016
koskinen1IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will skip today's hearing before the House Judiciary Committee where lawmakers will lay out the case for impeaching him over failure to preserve documents related to the IRS tea party scandal, according to Politico. Koskinen said he was not doing so because the invitation came so late he would not have time to adequately prepare for wide reaching and complex discussion, according to The Week. The House Oversight Committee approved the impeachment motion, which said that the commissioner: 

* Failed to comply with a subpoena by destroying what committee members said were key pieces of evidence relating to the Lois Lerner-related scandal involving political bias in the approval of nonprofit organizations. 

* Lied under oath by saying the IRS has turned over all emails relevant to the congressional investigation, and when it discovered there were further emails that were missing, said they were unrecoverable. 

* Failed to notify congress that key evidence was missing, with the committee members saying the IRS had known the emails were missing in February 2014 yet still destroyed then in March 2014 and only notified Congress of this fact in June 2014. 

While the commission will not be at today's hearing, he did sent a statement defending his conduct at the IRS, which he was appointed to lead in 2013 after the resignation of the previous commissioner in the wake of the aforementioned scandal. In it, he says that he understands the frustration with IRS's document production and retention challenges, as well as deep concerns regarding the actions behind these controversies, but overall said the allegations against him are without merit. 

He noted that the scandals connected with the congressional investigation happened before he was even appointed, and that he never "met or spoken to former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner." In fact, he said, when he started out as commissioner, he didn't know anyone in the agency. 

In response to the specific allegations against him, Koskinen's statement said: 

 * The IRS has given Congress "a massive production of documents" and that, furthermore, both TIGTA and the DOJ had determined that the erasure of the disaster recovery tapes was an accident. He added that no one has even suggested (nor could they) that he was personally involved in their erasure, and that the IRS has taken steps to prevent a repeat of that failure to preserve information. 

* He acted in good faith in his efforts to comply with Congressional requests related to the investigation, and testified truthfully to the best of his knowledge in answering questions. He also said that the IRS only became aware that the disaster recovery tapes had been erased in 2015, after being told by TIGTA during its own investigation. He called allegations that "I somehow attempted to deceive Congress" unfounded.

* The IRS has in fact gone to great lengths to assist Congress in its investigation, and did not intend to impede the inquiry in any way. The IRS discovered the problem with Lerner's emails in February, and did so through the work of its own attorneys, versus the email exchanges that had previously been reported to Congress. After discovering the issue, Koskinen said "IRS officials worked to assess what happened, determine whether and how data was lost, and study how the data might be recovered from other sources." He, himself, only learned the details of the matter in April 2014, "and directed IRS personnel to continue the work of determining the extent of the data loss so that a complete description of the problem could be provided outside of the IRS." Once the assessment was completed in June, he said the IRS made a full and timely report to Congress, the DOJ and TIGTA. 

* The IRS has competently overseen its response to the Congressional investigation, having conducted broad document collection and review and produced comprehensive records on matters under investigation, despite substantial technical and resource challenges. The IRS has not impeded the investigation, he said, and its goal has always been to "
provide TIGTA, DOJ, and the Congressional committees all of the information that they needed to advance and ultimately complete their investigations." 

Koskinen also questioned whether impeachment proceedings were relevant to the situation at all, saying the Constitution reserves their use for “treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors,” which he said fits none of his factions. 

"If the Committee were to go forward and pursue impeachment in this instance, especially in light of the utter lack of support for the allegations, it would set an unfortunate precedent, diminishing the ability of the Federal government to attract experienced, dedicated people to positions of leadership," he said in his statement. 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the House Oversight Committee, disagreed, saying that impeachment was the proper remedy for this situation. 

"Commissioner Koskinen violated the public trust. 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.”

This is only the first of two hearings on whether or not to impeach Koskinen, the second being scheduled for June, which he does plan to attend, according to The Week. However, even if the House votes to impeach him, Sen. Orin Hatch (R - Utah), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said the Senate would not vote to convict him, which would require a two-thirds vote, according to The New York Times

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