House Republicans are calling for the ouster of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen over his failure to preserve evidence or tell the truth about the agency’s targeting of conservative organizations and their donors.
The government’s reluctance to hand over relevant materials to Congress in this case also suggests the special Benghazi committee may have trouble getting what it needs from Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is a longtime member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He says the IRS was under a preservation order from it’s own officials and a subpoena from the oversight committee to maintain critical evidence. But that’s not what happened.
“With a preservation order and a subpoena in place, the IRS destroys 422 tapes containing potentially 24,000 emails. This according to the inspector general. They destroyed them on March 4, 2014,” said Jordan.
Koskinen became commissioner in the midst of the investigation, but Jordan says his performance has been abysmal.
“Three weeks after that, John Koskinen comes before the oversight committee and testified. He’s asked repeatedly about Lois Lerner’s emails and he tells us at that hearing, ‘I will get you all of her emails.’ That’s a blatantly false statement if you’ve destroyed 422 tapes and 24,000 emails,” said Jordan.
Just as significant, says Jordan, is that Koskinen has never corrected the record. Meanwhile, the committee is still waiting for thousands of Lerner emails that were salvaged because IRS officials are taking time to make sure there are no duplicates of any emails.
Put together, Jordan says the commissioner has to go.
“When you think about the duties Mr. Koskinen had: a duty to preserve the documents, a duty to produce the documents, a duty to disclose to us when he couldn’t preserve and produce those, a duty to give accurate testimony and then, if he’s given testimony that’s inaccurate, a duty to correct the record,” said Jordan.
“He failed every one one of those duties and that’s why he needs to go,” he added.
Jordan says the GOP demand for Koskinen’s removal is not an overreaction. He says the commissioner has already received more tolerance than the government grants the average taxpayer.
“If you’re a taxpayer and you’re being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, do you get to make false statements and then not correct the record? When you are supposed to preserve things, do they cut you any slack if you wouldn’t preserve those and wouldn’t produce those and didn’t disclose to them when you destroyed those?” asked Jordan.
“There is no way a taxpayer gets that kind of courtesy or that kind of treatment, so why in the world should the agency that serves the taxpayers get some special deal?” he said.
In 2013, President Obama expressed outrage that the IRS allegedly harassed conservative groups applying for non-profit status. Last week on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Obama had a much different appraisal of the story.
“When there was that problem with the IRS, everybody jumped, including you, ‘Look, you’ve got this back office and they’re going after the tea party.’ Well, it turned out no,” Obama told Stewart, contending that IRS operatives “poorly and stupidly” implemented a confusing law.
“The truth of the matter is there was not some big conspiracy there,” Obama insisted.
Jordan says that’s simply untrue.
“The IRS was targeting people based on their political beliefs and they targeted conservatives. It’s a fact. The inspector general did the investigation and that’s what he determined. Now the inspector general has further investigated and determined that they destroyed 422 tapes containing potentially 24,000 emails,” said Jordan.
Jordan’s frustration extends beyond Koskinen to the commissioner’s former chief counsel, Kate Duval.
“One month before those tapes were destroyed, she was on notice that there were problems back in 2011 with Lois Lerner’s emails and that the emails they were trying to recover foe congressional investigation, there were gaps in those emails,” said Jordan. “So she learns that in February 2014 and doesn’t disclose that. In fact a month later they destroy the tapes,” said Jordan.
Duval is no longer at the IRS, but Jordan fears her new job could hamstring another critical probe.
“Guess where she’s at today? She’s over at the State Department. She’s left the IRS. She’s now at the State Department. She’s in charge of document production about Hillary Clinton’s emails for the Benghazi select committee,” said Jordan, who is a member of the Benghazi panel. “Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.”
House Republicans are demanding President Obama fire Koskinen as head of the IRS but that is very unlikely to happen. Jordan says lawmakers will pursue impeachment if necessary, although he admits that could be a lengthy road.
“We’re looking at how that has to unfold. You may have to look at a contempt (of Congress) issue before you go to impeachment. You have to work with the House Judiciary Committee. So we are doing the due diligence, the hard work that has to be done to be ready for that,” he said.
Jordan says Obama and other Democrats are eager to move on from the IRS investigation but he says Republicans will keep demanding accountability in order to defend the most constitutional rights.
“Remember what they did. They attacked our most fundamental liberty. Under the first amendment, we have a right to speak in a political nature against the policies of our government and not be harassed for doing so,” said Jordan.
“They systematically, and for a sustained period of time, harassed people for speaking out. They violated people’s first amendment free speech rights and now they think they can have this cavalier attitude about destroying and erasing tapes and not producing the documents and not disclosing and not testifying accurately. That is flat out wrong and they should be held accountable,” he said.