WASHINGTON – The Republican chairman of a powerful House committee moved Tuesday to impeach the head of the Internal Revenue Service, saying he violated the public trust and obstructed congressional investigations into the treatment of conservative groups.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen failed to comply with a congressional subpoena, allowed documents to be destroyed and misled the public. Chaffetz chairs the House Oversight Committee, which has been investigating the IRS for more than two years.
Chaffetz called impeachment an appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and “demonstrate to the American people that the IRS is under repair.”
The impeachment bid comes less than a week after the Justice Department said no IRS official will face criminal charges in the political controversy over the processing of applications by groups seeking tax-exempt status.
The decision closed a two-year investigation into accusations that stoked outrage among Republicans in Congress, who alleged bias in the tax agency’s treatment of conservative and tea party groups in seeking the tax-exempt designation.
The Justice Department said it found no evidence that Lois Lerner or any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution. Lerner headed the division that processes applications for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections and has since retired.
In his impeachment resolution, Chaffetz said Koskinen violated the public trust in at least three ways: He failed to comply with a subpoena resulting in destruction of key evidence containing thousands of Lerner’s emails; failed to testify truthfully to Congress about IRS handling of emails involving Lerner and other officials; and failed to notify Congress that key evidence was missing.
The IRS destroyed Lerner’s emails in March 2014, but did not notify Congress that the emails were missing until June 2014 — four months later and well after the White House and the Treasury Department were notified, Chaffetz said.
The IRS said in a statement that the agency “vigorously disputes the allegations in the resolution. We have fully co-operated with all of the investigations.”
Eighteen Republicans on the committee joined Chaffetz in co-sponsoring the impeachment resolution, which now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the oversight panel, called the impeachment effort “ridiculous,” adding that, “just as in the Benghazi and Planned Parenthood investigations, it appears that facts simply don’t matter to Republicans.”
Cummings said there was “zero evidence” that Koskinen engaged in the wrongdoing alleged by Chaffetz. The IRS has spent $20 million and 160,000 employee-hours co-operating with the committee’s “misguided investigation with no evidence of any political targeting,” Cummings said.
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