House Republicans staged an impeachment hearing Wednesday for IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who is charged with High Crimes and Misdemeanors in his dealings with congressional investigations.
“On his watch, volumes of information crucial to the investigation into the IRS targeting scandal were destroyed,” he said. “Before the tapes were destroyed, congressional demands, including subpoenas, for information about the IRS targeting scandal went unanswered and were not complied with.”
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen arrived in the Rayburn House Office Building hearing room at or around 9:45 a.m., with a small coterie of aides and a big smile. Working the rows of GOP congressmen already settling in, Koskinen acted like a man running for class president rather than the target of an impeachment process that could end with his removal from office by Congress.
In his opening statement, Koskinen said he regretted that he had been unable to bring the controversies surrounding the handling of tax status to a conclusion.
The commissioner said he took the job with the intent of restoring confidence in the agency, but looking back, he acknowledged that he should have worked more closely with Congress.
Addressing the matter of his impeachment, he felt it would slow the pace of reform at the IRS and would deter people from wanting to enter public service.
Koskinen said that under his watch, the IRS has ended the BOLO, or Be On the lookout, alerts that were bringing special attention to specific groups.
Going into the 2012 election cycle, the IRS issued a BOLO for organizations with names using words such as,Tea Party, conservative, liberty, constitution. and Israel.
The targeting operation was directed by IRS official Lois Lerner, now retired. Lerner’s operation would harass conservative groups with exhaustive and inappropriate requests for correspondence, donor lists, social media posts. and other documents. Lerner’s chief tactic was to slow-walk a group’s paperwork, so that they were frozen without an approved tax status. Because there was no status, contributors were confused and the group itself did not have a decision to appeal.
Former chairman of the committee Rep. Lamar Smith (R.-Texas) made a short statement when his turn came up. Smith said he was stunned by the number of members of the Obama administration that have been in trouble for their handling of emails, their destruction of evidence, and their refusal to comply with subpoenas. Smith, the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology committee is in the process of compelling the Commerce Department to obey his subpoena for documents.
Cutting his own time short, Smith then tossed a lateral to Rep. Jim Jordan (R.-Ohio), yielding to him the balance of his time.
This switch had been arranged Tuesday, when Smith approached Jordan and asked Jordan if he wanted some more time to question the commissioner.
Jordan tore into Koskinen.
The Ohio congressman pressed the commissioner on how is it that his counsel discovered Feb. 2, 2014 that Lerner’s hard drives were destroyed and that her emails that were under subpoena could not be produced. But on March 4, 2014 IRS employees erased 422 back-up tapes that would have captured the emails lost from Lerner’s hard drive.
It was even stranger that the tapes were meant to be destroyed a year before but had survived, only to be erased a month after the IRS learned they were the only source of subpoenaed documents, he said.
“We’re supposed to believe that this is a coincidence?” he asked.
Koskinen said there was a thorough investigation that supported his previous testimony that although he gave the order to preserve documents requested by Congress, two midnight shift employees in New Martinsville, West Virginia did not get the word and on their own initiative erased the tapes.
“Ah, the old midnight shift guys in New Martinsville excuse,” Jordan replied.
Next, Jordan read from one of the supporting documents to the impeachment resolution an excerpt quoting Koskinen’s June 2, 2014 testimony that all emails and other requested documents had been preserved: “‘Nothing has been lost. Nothing has been destroyed,’–is that statement true Mr. Koskinen?”
The commissioner told Jordan he thought it was true at the time.
Then, Jordan twisted his body to face Goodlatte: “Mr. Chairman, this is the problem!”
Jordan told Goodlatte that anyone in his own district back in Ohio who had behaved in such a way would be in trouble
“This is what so many Americans are frustrated about, this double standard,” he said.
“All we are asking is that this guy no longer holds this office,” Jordan said.
After his first round of questioning, Jordan told Breitbart News he took note of how Koskinen in both his testimony and written statement admitted to mistakes.
“It is something he should have done a long time ago,” he said, adding:
Think about every duty he had. He had a duty to preserve the record, they didn’t do that–it was under preservation order and subpoena–he had a duty to protect those documents, he failed to do that because they destroyed a bunch of them. He had a duty to disclose to us if he couldn’t preserve and produce those documents in a timely fashion–he failed to do that he waited months before he told us they were missing.
Koskinen needs to be held accountable, he said.
“He had a duty to testify accurately and he had a duty to correct the record if he testified inaccurately–he breached every duty he had,” he said.
“Again, that’s why he has to go.”