Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner John Koskinen admitted before the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 21 he regrets some of his actions during the investigation into his agency’s targeting of conservative groups.
“The truth is that we did not succeed in preserving all of the information requested, and some of my testimony later proved mistaken,” Koskinen said. “I regret both of those failings.”
Several House Republicans have spearheaded a campaign to oust Koskinen for providing false testimony to Congress and allowing thousands of emails to get destroyed under his watch, despite duly issued subpoenas to preserve all evidence. Today Koskinen told the committee he made mistakes but never intentionally lied or mislead Congress during its investigation.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said Congress has an obligation to provide oversight to government agencies but that’s impossible if they don’t have all the information or those who provide it are not truthful.
“If I had known then what I know now, I would have testified differently,” Koskinen said.
In 2013, Congress subpoenaed the IRS to recover all documents and communication related to the targeting scandal and issued an order against destroying any relevant materials. Koskinen testified under oath that the IRS handed over all recoverable emails and documents to Congress and did not dump any evidence to obstruct the investigation. But the IRS inspector general later found two IRS employees in Martinsburg, W.Va., erased 422 backup tapes, destroying as many as 24,000 emails relevant to the investigation.
Koskinen said he did not lie because he told the truth to the best of his knowledge at the time. He later said the two employees who destroyed the evidence made an honest mistake. Neither suffered penalties.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said that’s not good enough.
“All we’re asking is this guy no longer hold this office,” Jordan said of Koskinen. “And in light of this fact pattern, I think that’s the least we can do.”
Jordan told the committee Koskinen is not held to the same standard as every other American. He said if the IRS asked any taxpayer to preserve evidence pursuant to an investigation, that taxpayer would be in serious trouble for destroying evidence before the IRS could look at it – intentionally or not.
“You issue 66,000 summonses and subpoenas each year, you can dish it out but you can’t take it,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, yelled at Koskinen. “Someone has to be held responsible.”
Democrats on the committee did not share Chaffetz’s passion. Only Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., was present at the start of the proceedings. His colleagues joined later, but only to complain the hearing was a waste of time.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., ate Skittles during his question and answer time with Koskinen. He said he had extra bags to share with the commissioner afterward so he could taste something sweet after the “bitter” hearing.
“This is not a legitimate impeachment hearing, this is a political charade – a Hollywood-style production,” smirked Rep. Hakeem Jefferies, D-N.Y. “Hollywood always has to have a villain, and who better than the head of an agency [Republicans] don’t like.”
Throughout the hearing, Koskinen was apologetic about the mistakes the IRS has made regarding the targeting scandal. He said he accepts responsibility as the head of the agency but insisted impeaching him is improper.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, asked why Congress needed to impeach Koskinen if he admitted his agency mishandled the investigation process. Why didn’t Koskinen just resign on his own?
Koskinen laughed off the idea: “If in fact every time an employee made an honest mistake in an agency, the expectation is that the head of that agency should resign? We’re not going to have any agency heads left.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Wilt writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)