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Freedom Caucus Introduces Measure To Impeach IRS Chief

Randy DeSto

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July 13, 2016

The House Freedom Caucus filed a measure on the House floor Wednesday to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, defying House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The “privileged” resolution calling for a direct floor vote came following Ryan’s refusal to schedule an impeachment vote in committee, The Hill reported.

The call for impeachment is response to false testimony by the IRS commissioner under oath to Congress and for the destruction of thousands of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails under his watch — which were subject to multiple congressional subpoenas — relating to the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS in the lead up to the 2012 election.

In a statement released Wednesday, Freedom Caucus chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, praised fellow Caucus members Rep. John Fleming, R-La., and Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan, for introducing the resolution.

Mr. Koskinen has failed the American people through gross negligence, dereliction of duty, and violating the public trust,” said Jordan. 

“With two subpoenas and three preservation orders in place, under Mr. Koskinen’s watch the IRS destroyed 422 backup tapes containing potentially 24,000 emails relevant to the IRS targeting of conservative organizations. This is unacceptable,” he added. 

In an op-ed published in early June, Jordan further elaborated on the case for the commissioner’s impeachment. “Following Koskinen’s confirmation by the Senate, on February 14, 2014, the Oversight Committee reissued the original subpoena to him (first issued in 2013), reaffirming the request to preserve all of Lois Lerner’s correspondence. The IRS’s Chief Technology Office also issued a preservation order instructing employees not to destroy any emails or back-up tapes,” the congressman explained. 

Despite these subpoenas, as many as 24,000 Lerner emails were destroyed. According to the congressman, Koskinen then testified under oath that all of the Lerner emails would be turned over knowing that thousands had been destroyed.

In a letter to Congress in May, Koskinen described the destruction of the tapes as “a failure of the IRS’s document preservation protocols,” adding, “The IRS accepts responsibility for it, and as detailed in its submissions to Congress, has improved employee training and has taken other measures to minimize the risk that anything like this could ever happen again.”

In separate testimony, the commissioner also confirmed under oath that another 1,000 backup tapes had been erased preventing the recovery of thousands of other Lerner emails, which proved to be false, as well

“The [IRS] inspector general also revealed that Koskinen’s staff hadn’t even bothered to search Lois Lerner’s email server, BlackBerry, or the Martinsburg, West Virginia facility housing the back-up tapes,” wrote Jordan.

“Rather than restore the American peoples’ confidence in the agency, Commissioner Koskinen instead stonewalled Congress’ investigation, provided false testimony under oath, disregarded multiple subpoenas and was complicit in allowing evidence to be destroyed,” charged the congressman.

The editors of National Review published an op-ed last month agreeing that Koskinen should be impeached, which reads in part:

High-ranking IRS officials were aware of the targeting [of conservative groups], and not only took no action to stop it but went to some length to cover up their wrongdoing. Hard drives mysteriously crashed, computers went missing or were destroyed, BlackBerrys were dismantled. More than a dozen IRS officials under investigation experienced inexplicable technical problems that destroyed evidence sought by investigators.

The backup tapes were the final hope for getting real answers on what ABC’s Terry Moran, not exactly a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, called “a truly Nixonian abuse of power by the Obama administration.” John Koskinen was not commissioner for all of that time. But he was commissioner at the critical moment when the tapes were destroyed.

A weaponized IRS put to partisan political ends constitutes an unbearable assault on American democracy.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted in June to censure Koskinen for his actions in a 23-15 vote along party lines. That resolution has yet to be taken up on the House floor.

The House Freedom Caucus introduced a resolution last July in opposition to then House Speaker John Boehner’s leadership, which ultimately led to his resignation.