House Republicans will hold hearings to investigate whether IRS Commissioner John Koskinen misled Congress and violated a subpoena, taking the first steps that could ultimately lead to his impeachment over the tax agency’s tea party targeting.
Impeachment is still very unlikely, particularly given the short amount of work days left in this Congress and in the Obama administration’s tenure overall.
But conservatives are intent on exploring Mr. Koskinen’s actions after the IRS was ordered to preserve and turn over documents related to targeting of tea party groups — and particularly emails from former senior executive Lois G. Lerner.
Mr. Koskinen’s accusers say he failed to comply with a congressional subpoena on those documents, and instead allowed backup tapes of the emails to be destroyed.
He also said his agency was unable to find the backups of some of Ms. Lerner’s emails — but the IRS’ own internal auditor was able to discover thousands of them with little effort. The internal auditor concluded that the agency erased 422 backup tapes that should have been protected by the subpoena.
The IRS, in a statement, didn’t address the accusations, instead listing all the tasks Mr. Koskinen is overseeing at the agency.
“Commissioner Koskinen and the IRS workforce remain focused on serving the nation’s taxpayers. In addition to completing a successful filing season this spring, we continue making progress on a number of important issues involving taxpayer service, tax enforcement and cybersecurity,” said spokesman Matthew Leas.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte on Friday scheduled two hearings, inviting members of the House Oversight Committee, which issued the initial subpoena and which has been pursuing Mr. Koskinen for years. And Mr. Goodlatte said he will invite Mr. Koskinen himself to testify.
“Our government is supposed to work for all Americans, not for a particular partisan agenda,” Mr. Goodlatte said in a statement announcing the hearings.
Rep. Jim Jordan, a member of the Oversight Committee who’s been active in the investigation, said the hearings will focus on a resolution of impeachment against Mr. Koskinen.
He said the hearings are “the right first step, but ultimately Congress should hold a vote on impeachment.”
“Commissioner Koskinen failed to fulfill his duty to the American people by allowing backup tapes containing potentially 24,000 emails to be destroyed,” Mr. Jordan said. “He failed to inform Congress about the destruction of these backup tapes in a timely manner. He gave false testimony before Congress regarding the backup tapes, and then refused to correct the record when given the opportunity.”