IRS Commissioner Will Finish Term Despite Calls to Step Down Immediately

Lawmakers called for Koskinen's impeachment after emails were erased following subpoena, preservation order

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen / Getty Images
April 6, 2017

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says he will finish his term through November despite congressional calls for him to step down immediately.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R., Texas) and 14 committee members sent a letter to President Donald Trump on April 5 asking him to replace Koskinen as soon as possible.

"Trust in the IRS is hitting rock-bottom under IRS Commissioner John Koskinen," the members wrote. "Not only was key evidence relevant to this Committee's investigation destroyed under his watch, but he also misled Congress in the process, intentionally degraded customer service at the agency, and has since lost the trust of the American people."

"We believe that trust cannot be fully restored under Commissioner Koskinen's leadership," they said. "For this reason, we are writing to request the removal of John Koskinen as commissioner of the IRS and to request that a new leader be put in place as soon as possible."

The IRS began targeting conservative and Tea Party groups in 2010, delaying their applications for tax-exempt status before the 2012 presidential election.

After an inspector general report uncovered the improper targeting, a subpoena was sent to the agency in 2013 requesting all the emails belonging to Lois Lerner, who led the agency's tax-exempt department at the time. Not only were Lerner's emails missing, it also was revealed that IRS employees magnetically erased 422 back-up tapes containing her emails.

Koskinen had testified that every email was preserved and nothing had been destroyed.

Republicans took steps to impeach Koskinen following these revelations, saying the commissioner conveyed information to the committee that later turned out to be inaccurate and documents requested under a subpoena and preservation order were destroyed under his watch.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Ks.) followed up on the letter at a Thursday hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, asking the commissioner whether he intended to serve out his term or if he would submit his resignation to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as soon as possible.

"It's my plan, I signed up for a term that ends in November, where I come from if you sign up for a commitment, you complete that commitment," Koskinen said.

Roberts said he has been disappointed by Koskinen's record at the IRS.

"Seven years after the IRS commenced its campaign against conservative groups and close to four years after Lois Lerner publicly apologized for what was going on, I do not believe we have meaningfully addressed the issues that political targeting raises whether they be conservative, liberal, whomever," Roberts said.

"And I don't think anybody's been held accountable," Roberts said. "In fact, in checking, these organizations are still experiencing delays and I think this is really unacceptable."

Koskinen said the agency had implemented every recommendation by the inspector general to ensure improper targeting does not reoccur.

"I understand that you're doing a very good job at summarizing what you believe you've accomplished at the agency," Roberts responded. "I simply do not agree with your summation in terms of what's been done with regards to the First Amendment rights of many Americans."

"The advent of a new administration and new leadership at the Treasury does give us a chance for a clean break," he said.

Koskinen said he had encouraged the Trump transition team and the new administration to find a nominee for his position in the next few months so there would be continuity and leadership at the agency.

"My concern is in fact there won't be a commissioner ready to take charge when I leave," he said.

Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday, Koskinen joked that while his term as IRS commissioner was ending, he may yet reappear in another government position.

"I should warn you that although this is my last visit to the Press Club as IRS Commissioner, don't necessarily assume you've seen the last of me," he said. "While I plan to retire in November, I could come back in some other position one of these days, 'cause after all I've already failed retirement twice."

Published under: IRS