Internal Revenue Service commissioner John Koskinen responded to the House Republican movement to have him impeached by saying he “never sought” the position in a written statement, The Washington Examiner is reporting.
“I have great respect for our institutions of government,” Koskinen, the IRS Commissioner since December 2013, said in a written statement. “When I began my services as commissioner… I took over an agency under investigation by six different bodies and buffeted by ongoing, serious controversy. I regret that, in the period since then, we have not been able to bring these matters to a conclusion.”
The statement was read at the opening hearing in the House Judiciary Committee to determine whether the IRS under Koskinen adhered to House oversight in the aftermath of allegations that the agency failed to grant tax-exempt status to several Tea Party organizations in the run-up to the 2012 elections.
According to Politico, Commissioner Koskinen is being accused of “fail[ing] to preserve documents Congress requested for its probe of the IRS tea party scandal,” and not “tell[ing] the full truth about erased backup tapes containing copies of emails belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner.”
Koskinen told the Committee he could not appear because he had been traveling in Asia and meeting with tax administrators from other nations. He also has a hearing on unrelated matters before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday which he has to prepare for.
The IRS Commissioner told the Judiciary Committee that he is “willing to appear” in the future.
However, a Republican aide informed Politico that Koskinen wasn’t required to attend the Ways and Means Committee hearing.
“The Ways and Means subcommittee initially requested that Richard Weber, the IRS criminal investigation chief, testify,” the Republican aide told Politico. “Commissioner Koskinen insisted he attend alongside Mr. Weber.”
Even still, Koskinen maintained in his statement that he and the IRS had done nothing wrong under his direction.
“Under my direction,” he wrote, “the IRS has responded comprehensively and in good faith to the various subpoenas and document requests from the investigating entities.”
But Koskinen also wrote that the charges against him regarding the IRS are “without merit” and unwarranted.”
While some of the charges against were “acknowledged errors by the IRS,” the Constitution “reserves the use of impeachment for ‘treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors.’ None of my actions relating to the issues above, viewed in light of all the facts, come close to that level.”
Aside from President Bill Clinton in 1998, The Examiner noted that Koskinen would be the first member of the executive branch since 1876 to be impeached.
The hearing over Koskinen’s alleged obstruction and mishandling of the IRS turned into a “highly partisan debate,” according to CNN, with Democrats saying there was no reason to turn on Koskinen, let alone the IRS.
“There seems to be an anti-IRS… environment here that makes it very difficult for me to go forward without an investigation of all that’s been said,” Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) disagreed, saying that “Commissioner Koskinen… breached every single duty he had.”
The controversy over the IRS began in 2010, when, under then-commissioner Lois Lerner, agency allegedly began flagging groups requesting tax-exempt status if they were deemed politically conservative.
The IRS denied these claims until May 2013, when Lerner issued an apology for targeting groups with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names, as The Washington Post reported at the time.
According to The Post, these conservative groups received heightened inquiry, including “burdensome questionnaires and, in some cases, improper requests for the names of their donors — simply because of the words in their names, she said in a conference call with reporters.”
The controversy led to Lerner’s resignation. Since his appointment by President Obama, Koskinen has since been doggedly pursued by House Republicans, who have accused him of not following their guidelines to clean up the IRS.
Today was the first of two hearings by the Judiciary Committee to determine whether the House should proceed with impeaching Koskinen as IRS Commissioner. The second will take place in June, according to Politico.
What do you think? Should IRS commissioner John Koskinen be impeached? Or, is this just partisan politics?
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]