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Chairman Wants IRS Commissioner Censured for False Statements, Impeding Investigation

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on March 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee introduced a resolution today to censure IRS Commission John Koskinen for a lack of cooperation with the panel’s investigation of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.

It demands that Koskinen be fired and have his pension stripped away.

Censure is a rarely employed tool in the House of Representatives, and basically amounts to formal condemnation. In 2012, the Oversight Committee, under then-chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), led the contempt of Congress charge against Attorney General Eric Holder for stonewalling the Fast and Furious investigation. That passed the House 255-67, with many Democrats walking out in protest.

The resolution introduced by Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) states that  “the House of Representatives does hereby censure and condemn John A. Koskinen for a pattern of conduct while Commissioner of Internal Revenue that is incompatible with his duties and inconsistent with the trust and confidence placed in him as an officer of the United States.”

It adds that “it is the sense of the House of Representatives that John A. Koskinen, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, should immediately resign from office, and if he does not so resign, the President should remove him from office; and be required to forfeit all rights to any annuity for which he is eligible.”

The resolution notes that Koskinen was subpoenaed by the committee on Feb. 14, 2014, “all communications sent or received by Lois Lerner, from January 1, 2009, to August 2, 2013.” The former director of the department that oversaw tax-exempt organizations was at the center of the targeting scandal.

On March 4, 2014, IRS employees “magnetically erased 422 backup tapes, destroying as many as 24,000 of Lois Lerner’s emails responsive to the subpoena,” therefore Koskinen “violated a congressional subpoena by failing to locate and preserve relevant records and by losing key pieces of evidence that were in the agency’s possession, and destroyed, on his watch,” Chaffez’s bill continues.

“As early as February 2014, and no later than April 2014, Commissioner Koskinen was aware that a substantial portion of Lois Lerner’s emails were missing and could not be produced to Congress, but did not notify Congress of any problem until June 13, 2014, when he included the information on the fifth page of the third enclosure of a letter to the Senate Committee on Finance.”

The resolution accuses the IRS commissioner of giving under oath “a series of false and misleading statements utterly lacking in honesty and integrity,” including telling Congress on June 14, 2014, that ‘‘since the start of this investigation, every email has been preserved. Nothing has been lost. Nothing has been destroyed.’’

“Commissioner Koskinen’s false statements delayed and otherwise interfered with congressional investigations into the Internal Revenue Service targeting of Americans based on their political affiliation” and “caused the House of Representatives to lose confidence in his ability to administer and supervise the execution and application of the internal revenue laws.”

Chaffetz said censure “affords Congress additional consequences to consider in identifying appropriate penalties for the Commissioner’s misdeeds.”

“Mr. Koskinen must be held accountable for his misconduct,” the chairman said in a statement. “I am committed to using every tool at my disposal to hold Mr. Koskinen responsible for his offenses toward Congress and toward the American people. I view censure as a precursor to impeachment as it allows the House the opportunity to formally condemn Mr. Koskinen.”

Chaffetz introduced a resolution back in October to impeach the IRS commissioner. That currently sits in the House Judiciary Committee with 69 co-sponsors.

Last July, Chaffetz and 51 colleagues sent a letter to President Obama demanding Koskinen’s resignation. The Oversight Committee said the White House never responded.