Issa Warns IRS Commish Werfel: 'Obstructing a Congressional Investigation Is a Crime'

On Tuesday, Darrell Issa, the Chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan sent a strongly worded  letter to acting IRS commissioner Daniel Werfel, threatening to compel the slow-to-respond IRS to cooperate with their congressional inquiry.

They excoriated Werfel for the “systematic manner in which the IRS has attempted to delay, frustrate, impede, and obstruct the Committee’s investigation” and said “if the IRS continues to hinder the committee’s investigation in any manner, the committee will be forced to consider use of compulsory process.”

“Despite your promise to cooperate fully with congressional investigations, the actions of the IRS under your leadership have made clear to the Committee that the agency has no intention of complying completely or promptly with the Committee’s oversight efforts,” the chairmen write.

The letter also notes that many documents that IRS has produced “contain excessive redactions that go well beyond those necessary to protect confidential taxpayer information.”

The IRS obstruction extends to interfering with individual IRS employees’ ability to provide information to the Committee.

The IRS also refused to provide the Committee with a copy of its own internal review completed last month. “Your attempt to carefully orchestrate the public release of that information before providing it to the Committee echoes the attempt by Lois Lerner to preempt the public release of the TIGTA audit in May 2013,” the chairmen write.

The attempt to withhold information from the Committee included refusing to provide a hard copy during an in person encounter: “Committee staff came upon you and members of your staff carrying hard copies of the report in the Capitol complex, you and your staff again refused to provide the report to the Committee at that time.”

“Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime,” Issa and Jordan noted in the letter.

It’s a crime that is punishable by a term of up to five years in prison.