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House Oversight Committee Seeking to Remove IRS Commissioner

Posted on July 29, 2015 by Kat Lucero and Fred Stokeld

This article first appeared in the July 28, 2015 edition of Tax Notes Today.

Republican members of a House committee investigating the IRS's mishandling of exemption applications called on President Obama July 27 to fire IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for misleading Congress about the missing e-mails of former IRS official Lois Lerner.

At a press conference, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and other Republicans on the panel blasted Koskinen for several alleged transgressions, including misleading Congress, failing to provide the committee with Lerner's e-mails, and failing to comply with a subpoena. They said they have sent a letter to Obama asking for Koskinen's removal, warning that if the president does not act, they could consider contempt charges against the commissioner or his impeachment. Earlier in the day, the Oversight Committee also released a video on the investigation outlining discrepancies in Koskinen's testimonies.

"Mr. Koskinen failed to testify truthfully. The statements that he made to Congress are false. It's well documented," Chaffetz said.

Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., echoed Chaffetz, saying that Koskinen "has betrayed the trust of the American people, and for that reason he must be removed from office."

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, faulted Koskinen for telling the committee in March of 2014 that the IRS would give the panel all of Lerner's e-mails, even though three weeks earlier 422 backup tapes potentially holding 24,000 Lerner e-mails from 2010 and 2011 had been destroyed. When Chaffetz "says it's time for Mr. Koskinen to go, it sure is," Jordan said. "He needs to go, and this committee is willing to do what it takes to make sure that he's no longer commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service."

When asked why the committee is pushing for Koskinen's ouster now, Chaffetz said the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has recently delivered more than 1,000 pages of new information to the committee. "We have received the 1,000 pages literally just within the last week," he said. "So that's part of the timing."

Following TIGTA's final report on the controversy, the Senate Finance Committee is also planning to review findings from its own bipartisan investigation during a closed-door executive session before the August recess.

Chaffetz's announcement follows the Government Accountability Office's July 23 release of a report highlighting discrepancies in the IRS's review of organizations that are applying for tax-exempt status.


Reaction

The ranking minority member on the committee, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., criticized the Republicans, charging that they had provided no new information in their letter, video, and press conference. "The bottom-line is that the Inspector General found no evidence to back-up Republican claims of political motivation, White House involvement, or intentional destruction of evidence," Cummings said in a statement. "Calls for Commissioner Koskinen to step down are nothing more than a manufactured Republican political crisis based on allegations that have already been debunked."

The IRS also defended Koskinen, pledging that the agency would continue to cooperate with the committee and Congress.

"The record is clear that the IRS and Commissioner Koskinen have been cooperative and truthful with the numerous investigations underway," the IRS said in a statement. "The agency has produced more than one million pages of documents in support of the investigations, provided 52 current and former employees for interviews and participated in more than 30 Congressional hearings on these issues."