IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during a Congressional hearing in February.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during a Congressional hearing in February. Susan Walsh/Associated Press

House Oversight Republicans Call for IRS Chief’s Head

Press conference and video restate the case that Koskinen lied about targeting evidence.

Twenty-one Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Monday sent President Obama a 30-page letter calling for him to fire Internal Revenue Commissioner John Koskinen, citing his “failure to preserve and produce documentation” to the committee investigating the controversy over alleged political targeting.

The Internal Revenue Service immediately sent a statement to Government Executive defending the commissioner.

The committee’s options, said Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, in a press conference with other Republicans, “possibly holding him in contempt, possible impeachment, these are two of the things we’re actively exploring.”

The late-afternoon press conference—supplemented with a 10-minute video and promotions on Twitter and YouTube—was largely a restatement of the criticisms of Koskinen’s statements to Congress over the past two years regarding the search for missing emails involving former IRS executive Lois Lerner.

The letter recaps the “evidence of the violations on the part of the IRS and Commissioner Koskinen in properly complying with both a congressional subpoena and its own internal preservation order.

“At best, Commissioner Koskinen was derelict in his duties to preserve agency records,” Chaffetz said in his statement. “At worst, he and the IRS engaged in an orchestrated plan to hide information from Congress. Given Commissioner Koskinen’s obfuscation and misleading statements to Congress, and the false claims that key evidence was permanently destroyed, the result has been an unnecessarily protracted investigation. More importantly though, the American people will never know all the facts surrounding the agency’s targeting of conservative tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups.”

The IRS countered that “The record is clear that the IRS and Commissioner Koskinen have been cooperative and truthful with the numerous investigations underway. The agency has produced more than 1 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. The agency will continue to cooperate with the committees, support the important oversight role of Congress as well as make additional improvements in our operations and processes.”

Ranking panel member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., issued a statement saying, “This is a strange, oddly-timed rehashing of conspiracy theories that were debunked by the Inspector General himself—who concluded in a report to the Oversight Committee just last month that there is no evidence to substantiate these claims. Although this video, letter, and press conference appear to be designed to preempt a report from the Senate Finance Committee on this matter, there is no new information here.” 

Cummings added, “Calls for Commissioner Koskinen to step down are nothing more than a manufactured Republican political crisis based on allegations that have already been debunked.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said Koskinen “needs to go, and this committee is willing to do what it takes to see that he does.”

Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo, implored reporters “to watch the video over and over again.”

Chaffetz noted that the fight thus far has been restricted to questions of access to the emails, and that the committee hasn’t even begun examination of their content. He promised soon to release new transcribed interviews with IRS employees involved in the alleged targeting.