Congress should fulfill its constitutional duty to police executive-branch lawlessness. Don’t hold your breath.
“Congress has become a paper tiger within our tripartite system.”
These Republican leaders’ reasons are cumulatively unpersuasive. Resuscitating the impeachment power would contribute to revitalizing Congress’s Article I powers. Impeachments are rare — no appointed official of the executive branch has been
impeached in 140 years. But what James Madison called the “indispensable” power to impeach should not be allowed to atrophy, as has Congress’s power to declare war.
Here are a few pertinent facts. At the IRS, Exempt Organizations director Lois Lerner participated in delaying for up to five years — effectively denying — tax-exempt status for, and hence suppressing political advocacy by, conservative groups. She retired after refusing to testify to congressional committees, invoking the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.
Koskinen, who became commissioner after Lerner left, failed to disclose the disappearance of e-mails germane to a congressional investigation of IRS misbehavior.
Under his leadership, the IRS failed to comply with a preservation order pertaining to an investigation. He did not testify accurately or keep promises made to Congress. Read the rest of this entry »
Alexander Hendrie continues: The House Oversight Committee report cites an officially transcribed
interview with John Minsek, senior investigative analyst with the IRS Criminal Investigations (CI) unit. Minsek examined the Lerner hard drive in 2011. In the transcribed interview, he notes Lerner’s hard drive contained “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.” The Oversight Committee report states:
“Using the CI unit’s digital forensic facilities, Minsek opened the hard drive and conducted additional tests. Once he opened the hard drive, Minsek noticed “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.”
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So how did the scoring get there?
Last month, testimony from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) revealed that Lois Lerner’s hard drive had “scoring on the top platter of the drive.” The testimony also noted that the IRS technician that inspected the hard drive believed that additional steps could have been taken to recover data, although this did not occur and the hard drive was later destroyed by an industrial strength AMERI-SHRED AMS-750 HD shredder.
Given these facts, it is logical to question how the “scoring” occurred and whether there was foul play involved. Here it what is known thus far:
– According to TIGTA testimony submitted to the Oversight Committee on June 25, 2014, Lerner’s laptop stopped communicating with the IRS server on Saturday June 11, 2011, between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
– According to the same testimony,the laptop was likely physically located in Lerner’s office the moment it stopped communicating with the server: Read the rest of this entry »
When it was revealed in 2013 that the IRS had targeted conservative groups for exercising their First Amendment rights, President Obama correctly called the policy “inexcusable” and pledged accountability. He even fired the then-acting IRS commissioner because he said it was necessary to have “new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.”
“A taxpayer would never get away with treating an IRS audit the way that IRS officials have treated the congressional investigation.”
Unfortunately, Commissioner Koskinen, who took over in the wake of the IRS targeting scandal, has failed the American people by frustrating Congress’s attempts to ascertain the truth. A taxpayer would never get away with treating an IRS audit the way that IRS officials have treated the congressional investigation. Civil officers like Mr. Koskinen have historically been held to a higher standard than private citizens because they have fiduciary obligations to the public. The IRS and Mr. Koskinen have breached these basic fiduciary duties:
• Destruction of evidence. Lois Lerner, at the time the director of the IRS’s exempt-organizations unit, invoked the Fifth Amendment on May 22, 2013, when appearing before Congress; her refusal to testify put a premium on obtaining and reviewing her email communications. On the same day the IRS’s chief technology officer issued a preservation order that instructed IRS employees “not to destroy/wipe/reuse any of the existing backup tapes for email, or archiving of other information from IRS personal computers.”
“John Koskinen has violated the public trust, breached his fiduciary obligations and demonstrated his unfitness to serve. Mr. President, it’s time for Commissioner Koskinen to go. If you don’t act, we will.”
Several weeks later, on Aug. 2, the House Oversight Committee issued its first subpoena for IRS documents, including all of Ms. Lerner’s emails. On Feb. 2, 2014, Kate Duval, the IRS commissioner’s counsel, identified a gap in the Lerner emails that were being collected. Days later, Ms. Duval learned that the gap had been caused in 2011 when the hard drive of Ms. Lerner’s computer crashed.
Despite all this—an internal IRS preservation order, a congressional subpoena, and knowledge about Ms. Lerner’s hard-drive and email problems—the Treasury inspector general for tax administration discovered that the agency on March 4, 2014, erased 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 emails. (Congress learned of the discovery only last month.)
Ms. Duval has since left the IRS and now works at the State Department, where she is responsible for vetting Hillary Clinton’s emails sought by congressional investigations of the Benghazi attacks.
• Failure to inform Congress. Mr. Koskinen was made aware of the problems associated with Ms. Lerner’s emails the same month Ms. Duval discovered the gap. Yet the IRS withheld the information from Congress for four months, until June 13, 2014, when the agency used a Friday news dump to admit—on page seven of the third attachment to a letter sent to the Senate Finance Committee—that it had lost many of Ms. Lerner’s emails. Read the rest of this entry »
The head of the IRS confirmed Wednesday that investigators looking into missing emails from ex-agency official Lois Lerner have found and are reviewing “backup tapes” — despite earlier IRS claims that the tapes had been recycled.
“It is unbelievable that we cannot get a simple, straight answer from the IRS about this hard drive.”
— House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, testifying before a House oversight subcommittee, stressed that he does not know “how they found them” or “whether there’s anything on them or not.” But he said the inspector general’s office advised him the investigators are reviewing tapes to see if they contain any “recoverable” material.
The revelation is significant because the IRS claimed, when the agency first told Congress about the missing emails, that backup tapes “no longer exist because they have been recycled.”
It is unclear whether the tapes in IG custody contain any Lerner emails, but Koskinen said investigators are now checking. Read the rest of this entry »
Making a Mockery
Call John Koskinen a late bloomer. According to records on our hard drive before we crashed it, he is 74 years old, thirty-three days short of the magical 75. Before he caught Paul Ryan’s attention, we had never heard of him. Now he’s unanimous victor in the EOW sweepstakes. Such insolence, such arrogance, such contempt for all humanity we had not seen in a public official since the last time we paid attention to those who escaped from the losing side of World War II to some friendly dictatorship in the southern parts of South America and got caught. Is it any surprise that the Koskinen soccer stadium at Duke University is named after him? Wonder where he picked up his expertise in soccer?
“So the official line must remain: Computers crash, dogs eat homework, and Republicans have no standing to complain about anything or even be in politics”
What about his lowly competition this week? The maestros at Politico have hailed our president’s becoming “mocker-in-chief on climate change skeptics.” Only problem is we have yet to hear him play mocker-in-chief vis-à-vis, say, V.V. Putin, ISIS, Iran, cholera at the border, and the leader responsible for our nation’s GDP shrinking by 2.9 percent last quarter. No fair, this last charge? It was, after all, a very cold winter. Climate changed in every wrong way. Oh, well, no need, Mr. Prez, to apologize to those you have mocked. We expect the honorable Mr. Koskinen will jump at the chance to do the job for you. Read the rest of this entry »
For Media Research Center, Matthew Balan reports: The Big Three networks’ Friday evening newscasts finally noticed the latest development in the IRS scandal (they omitted it on Thursday), after Rep. Paul Ryan grilled Commissioner John Koskinen earlier in the day. It was the first ABC, CBS or NBC evening newscast mention of the IRS since news of the missing e-mail broke a week earlier.
Williams set aside a minute and 13 seconds of air time on NBC Nightly News to the latest on the IRS scandal
[Also see: Trust In News Media At All-Time Low]
ABC’s David Muir spotlighted “the outrage…involving the IRS claiming to have lost thousands of crucial documents – lawmakers asking, how can the tax man be let off the hook for losing documents, while ordinary taxpayers would never get away with that?”
NBC’s Brian Williams noted how Koskinen claimed that the IRS “lost evidence in the investigation into how they handled conservative political groups…and given how long the IRS holds on to things like our tax returns, some members of Congress just aren’t buying it.” CBS’s Nancy Cordes zeroed in on congressional Democrats’ attack on their Republican colleagues over the scandal – something that ABC and NBC didn’t do: [MP3 audio available here; video below]
NANCY CORDES: Republicans have long suggested Lerner was urged by the White House to hold up applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups before the 2012 elections. Democrats, like Lloyd Doggett of Texas, mocked that as just another conspiracy theory.
For The Weekly Standard, Michael Warren writes: Republican congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio excoriated the Internal Revenue Service commissioner Monday night in a House hearing looking into the agency’s malfeasance regarding conservative non-profit groups…(read more) The Weekly Standard
Watch the exchange below:
Koskinen says he “did nothing” when he learned of the lost emails, despite the fact that both Congress and the FBI were investigating the abuse by IRS officials, led by Lerner. A visibly irritated Jordan tried to get a straight answer…
‘We have a problem with you, and you have a problem maintaining your credibility’: House Republicans Grill IRS Commissioner as they Subpoena White House LawyerPosted: June 23, 2014
For Mail Online, David Martosko reports: Republicans dropped a hammer on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during a testy hearing covering the disappearance of emails tied to the agency’s tea party targeting scandal.
“You worked to cover up the fact they were missing and only came forward to fess up on a Friday afternoon after you had been caught red-handed.”
The emails, covering the period January 2009 to April 2011, belonged to embattled former official Lois Lerner and could shed light on whether an expansive scheme to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny was guided by members of Congress or administration officials outside the IRS.
‘The committee requested all of Lois Lerner’s emails over a year ago,’ said House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa. ‘And we subpoenaed the emails in August 2013 and again in February 2014. … You worked to cover up the fact they were missing and only came forward to fess up on a Friday afternoon after you had been caught red-handed.’
‘You personally did not cause the targeting,’ he told Koskinen, referring to the tea party scandal. ‘You personally did not destroy the emails. But by your actions and your deception, you now own this scandal.’
‘We have a problem with you,’ Issa sniped, ‘and you have a problem maintaining your credibility.’
Monday’s unusual evening hearing came as the result of a subpoena, and will continue Tuesday morning with a command performance from another Obama administration official.
Issa subpoenaed White House lawyer Jennifer O’Connor on Monday afternoon. He had invited her on Thursday to testify during the Tuesday session, but on Monday afternoon White House Counsel W. Neil Egglestonwrote Issa to say his underling would not appear.
Before O’Connor’s promotion to the White House Counsel’s office, she was counsel to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel.
Just ten days ago the IRS informed congressional investigators that a hard drive crash had destroyed 28 months of emails to and from Lerner, who led the IRS’s office in charge of vetting and policing tax-exempt nonprofit groups. Read the rest of this entry »
“This is a major abuse of power.”
The revised regulations would classify social-welfare groups’ activities as political.
While Senate Republicans, following the lead of their House colleagues, are backing a bill to delay the rules for a year, and the protests of right-leaning nonprofit groups, big and small, are reaching fever pitch, Democratic politicians who are urging the IRS to move forward with the regulations have found themselves at odds with some of their largest constituencies, chief among them the country’s labor unions.
The proposed changes, which were unveiled in late November, would classify much of the day-to-day activity of 501(c)(4) social-welfare groups, including voter education and registration, as political, thereby endangering their tax-exempt status. They would also prohibit public communication 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary election that identifies a political candidate — that is, nearly every advertisement aired by groups such as the conservative Americans for Prosperity or the liberal League of Conservation Voters — during the period when they are most effective.