Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and 20 other members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called Monday for President Barack Obama to remove IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, after weeks of speculation they might call for his impeachment.
OGR Chair Chaffetz and other Republicans on the panel accuse Koskinen of obstructing multiple congressional investigations into the IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking non-profit status during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns.
“It’s time for the president to remove Mr. Koskinen as the IRS commissioner,” Chaffetz said during a press conference, adding that the committee may pursue stronger actions in the future, like holding Koskinen in contempt of Congress, or calling for his impeachment.
Koskinen especially infuriated oversight members in a June hearing, when he repeatedly said no IRS officials committed wrongdoing when emails related to the scandal disappeared.
Since Koskinen took office in December of 2013 for a five-year term, Congress has also scrutinized the Yale-trained lawyer for allowing security breaches, spending millions on polling, office furniture and stuffed animals, and cutting customer service during tax season.
Oversight committee members have been talking quietly for weeks about wanting to see Koskinen gone. Two weeks ago, panel member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told the Washington Free Beacon impeachment was “definitely” a possibility.
“When you have an individual who’s head of an agency with this kind of power the Internal Revenue Service has, who has stated things under oath that turned out later to be false, that’s a problem,” Jordan said.
OGR Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, (D-Maryland), had a different take on this.
“Calls for Commissioner Koskinen to step down are nothing more than a manufactured Republican political crisis based on allegations that have already been debunked,” he said in a statement.
As commissioner, Koskinen is responsible for the more than $3 trillion the IRS collects from taxpayers annually. Before his current job, Koskinen was chairman of Freddie Mac.
Congress’ interest in the IRS targeting began with a letter from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., to the IRS in 2011. Lois Lerner, then head of the IRS office that processes non-profit applications admitted to targeting in May of 2013.
Oversight members wrote a letter in August 2013 to Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew reminding him to preserve all emails. At that point, three separate congressional committees were investigating the situation.
Koskinen initially told Congress multiple times that he would provide Lerner’s emails, but then later said the IRS needed to peruse and redact the emails first. In June of 2014, he told Congress that Lerner’s hard drive crashed, just eight days after the first letter from Camp in 2011. Soon thereafter, he said the hard drive was destroyed.
Oversight members preluded Monday’s announcement with a video summarizing the IRS scandal, titled, “There must be accountability.” The video asks “did the commissioner intentionally mislead Congress?”
“The bottom line: IRS didn’t fulfill its legal obligation to respond to Congress,” the video continued. “They didn’t preserve information. They didn’t try to find the information. They misled Congress for years. Their failings leave the American people in the dark about how their First Amendment rights were trampled upon. There must be accountability.”
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