“Providing false testimony before Congress comes with a consequence, at least it should. It’s a crime,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told the House Judiciary Committee.
In a written statement that Republicans blocked from being formally admitted as testimony, Koskinen — who did not appear before the panel — said the charges were unfounded.
He said his assurances to lawmakers that all emails congressional investigators were seeking had been preserved — which turned out to be untrue — were made before he knew data containing the emails had been destroyed.
“This resolution fails by every measure,” Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the Judiciary panel’s top Democrat, said of the impeachment effort. “It arises from the worst partisan instincts. It is not based in the facts.”
Booting Koskinen has become a favorite cause among conservatives, and Chaffetz has 73 co-sponsors on his impeachment resolution. But support by other Republicans has been tepid and Democrats are flatly opposed.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has yet to embrace the idea, with spokesman Brendan Buck saying Ryan has deferred to committee leaders. Many Republicans would rather not launch a campaign-season impeachment effort with virtually no chance of success, even as they try persuading voters that they are running Congress constructively.
Congressional Republicans have long detested the IRS. Those feelings were only heightened when the agency apologized in 2013 for subjecting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to unusually tough scrutiny, prompting GOP lawmakers to launch congressional investigations, cut the agency’s budget and trim its staffing.
Chaffetz has accused Koskinen of failing to provide congressional investigators with subpoenaed evidence, not testifying truthfully about the destruction of emails and taking three months to reveal to Congress that emails considered important to the probe were missing.
In 2014, the IRS disclosed that it had lost emails to and from Lois Lerner, who headed the agency division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. Chaffetz says while Koskinen was in charge, 422 IRS backup computer tapes containing up to 24,000 of Lerner’s emails were destroyed.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said Tuesday that the IRS’s treatment of conservative groups was “a political plan to silence” them and said Koskinen was facing “very serious allegations of misconduct.”
The Justice Department ended a two-year investigation of the controversy last year, saying no IRS official would face criminal charges and that it had uncovered no evidence that agency officials acted out of political bias against conservative groups.
Last July, a report by IRS Inspector General Russell George concluded that the data were destroyed by mistake, not in any agency effort to withhold information from Congress.
Koskinen’s term as commissioner expires in November 2017, 10 months into the next president’s term.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the House has impeached only 19 people in history — Presidents Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, one senator, one Cabinet member and 15 federal judges. Only eight people were convicted by the Senate, all of them judges.
Koskinen said in his written statement that none of his actions “come close” to the thresholds the Constitution sets for impeachment: treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors. He said impeaching him would set “an unfortunate precedent” and discourage talented people from seeking government positions.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, whose department includes the IRS, criticized Republicans. Lew said in a written statement Tuesday that the House should focus on the nation’s needs, “not the kind of political agenda that an impeachment vote here would represent.”
Written by ALAN FRAM, Associated Press
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