Politics

Koskinen Denies IRS Still Targeting Conservatives Despite Contrary Court Ruling

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Rep. Jim Jordan slammed IRS Commissioner John Koskinen Wednesday for claiming the IRS is “absolutely not” still targeting Tea Party and conservative non-profits after a federal court declared otherwise.

“You can’t sit there and say you’re not still targeting. These organizations still don’t have their tax-exempt status,” Jordan said during the third House Committee on the Judiciary hearing on Koskinen’s alleged misconduct. The Wednesday gathering was the first Judiciary hearing Koskinen attended.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last month found “discriminatory conduct” by the IRS is why it has yet to approve several conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status years ago.

Such conduct warrants Koskinen’s impeachment, according to Jordan, who has become point man in the effort of conservatives in the House of Representatives to hold federal tax officials accountable in the IRS targeting scandal

President Barack Obama appointed Koskinen in 2013 to clean up the agency following exposure of the illegal targeting during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns. But Jordan and his allies maintain that Koskinen lied to Congress and defied subpoenas and preservation orders when he allowed the IRS to destroy 422 backup tapes belonging to Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division and the central figure in the targeting scandal.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy also poked holes in Koskinen’s testimony, seizing on Koskinen’s claim that the IRS preserved every Lerner email as soon as congressional investigations into the targeting scandal began after May 2013.

“What did you mean by every email?” Gowdy asked. Koskinen said he meant the IRS preserved every email and record he was aware of in 2013.

Even so, Koskinen admitted that he failed in preserving all of Lerner’s emails.

“This is the first time we’ve heard you say you made a mistake,” House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz said. 

The hearing Wednesday represented a compromise between conservatives and the GOP leadership, after Louisiana Republican Rep. John Fleming tried to force a vote on the House floor last week. (RELATED: IRS Commissioner’s Impeachment Going Nowhere Fast)

The outcome of the impeachment effort remains very much in doubt because House members are eager to leave town to campaign for re-election.

Democrats were quick to blast the impeachment campaign.

“Your critics have not made their case, nor do they have the votes” to force impeachment, Rep. Jerry Nadler told Koskinen. Other Democrats on the panel offered similar remarks.

“This is not an impeachment hearing,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers said. An “actual impeachment hearing” would include a lawyer and proof that Koskinen intentionally acted in bad faith, he added.

“Yes, we have it within our power to skip these steps, but what kind of precedent does that set?” Conyers said.

Koskinen said in his prepared testimony that impeaching him would be “not appropriate. I accept that it is up to you to judge my overall record, but I believe that impeachment would be improper. It would create disincentives for many good people to serve. And it would slow the pace of reform and progress at the IRS.”

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