IRS chief says im­peach­ing him would be ‘im­proper’

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Mike DeBonis

WASH­ING­TON — IRS Com­mis­sioner John Kosk­i­nen spent nearly four hours Wed­nes­day be­ing ver­bally pum­meled by House con­ser­va­tives who want to im­peach him.

But it re­mains un­clear whether the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s ques­tion­ing will con­vince GOP lead­ers to launch an im­peach­ment probe as long as ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing re­mains scant.

Kosk­i­nen stands ac­cused of pre­sid­ing over the IRS when the agency de­stroyed com­puter back­ups con­tain­ing thou­sands of emails sought by Congress in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of po­lit­i­cal tar­get­ing at the agency.

No­ev­i­dence has emerged to show that Kosk­i­nen di­rected or had prior knowl­edge of the de­struc­tion, but con­ser­va­tives have pushed to hold him ac­count­able by mak­ing him the first ex­ec­u­tive branch of­fi­cial to be ousted by Congress since John Kosk­i­nen tes­ti­fies Wed­nes­day in Wash­ing­ton. 1876.

Kosk­i­nen told law­mak­ers Wed­nes­day that pur­su­ing his im­peach­ment would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

“I ac­cept that it is up to you to judge my over­all record, but I be­lieve that im­peach­ment would be im­proper,” he said in an open­ing state­ment. “It would cre­ate dis­in­cen­tives for many good peo­ple to serve. And it would slow the pace of re­form and progress at the IRS.”

But Kosk­i­nen was faced with harsh ques­tion­ing from GOP mem­bers of the com­mit­tee, many of whom cited a dou­ble stan­dard for IRS of­fi­cials and for reg­u­lar tax­pay­ers who are ac­cused of wrong­do­ing.

“You know how to dish it out, but you don’t know how to take it,” said Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, R-Utah, chair­man of the Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, which is­sued a sub­poena for IRS doc­u­ments in 2013.

The charges are rooted in al­le­ga­tions that the IRS im­prop­erly tar­geted con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal groups in 2010.

Kosk­i­nen was brought in af­ter­ward to clean up the agency amid sev­eral probes and told the over­sight com­mit­tee in 2014 that rel­e­vant records would be turned over to in­ves­ti­ga­tors — even though backup tapes con­tain­ing emails had been de­stroyed months ear­lier.

Kosk­i­nen char­ac­ter­ized the tapes’ de­struc­tion as an “hon­est mis­take” by work­ers in an IRS ware­house in West Vir­ginia and said he was not aware of it when he tes­ti­fied to Congress.

CHIP SO­MOD­EV­ILLA/GETTY

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