WASHINGTON — Ahead of a rare evening hearing, a House panel has asked IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to address a series of technical questions about the agency’s email system and its policy for retaining official documents.
The IRS chief returns to the House Oversight Committee Monday to face skeptical lawmakers with questions about lost emails.
The title of the hearing suggests that committee Chairman Darrell Issa already has reached some conclusions. The hearing is called, “IRS Obstruction: Lois Lerner’s Missing Emails.”
Instead of an invitation, Issa, R-Calif., subpoenaed Koskinen to testify.
“I will not tolerate your continued obstruction and game-playing in response to the Committee’s investigation of the IRS targeting,” Issa wrote to Koskinen. “For too long, the IRS has promised to produce requested — and later subpoenaed — documents, only to respond later with excuses and inaction.”
“Despite your empty promises and broken commitments to cooperation, the IRS still insists on flouting Constitutional congressional oversight,” Issa said.
Koskinen had a long record of government service before taking over as head of the IRS at the start of the year. He served in different positions under both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and worked for the District of Columbia.
“It’ll be the first time in my long career of testifying anybody ever subpoenaed me but if that’s the way they want to operate, that’s fine with me,” Koskinen said Friday. “I just got a subpoena announcing that I was to appear at 7 o’clock on Monday night with no inquiry, no request, no question whether I was even going to be in town.”
The IRS says that in 2011, it lost an untold number of emails to and from Lerner because of her computer crashed. Lerner is the former head of the division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. Issa’s committee is investigating the handling of applications from tea party and other political groups.
Lerner, who is now retired from the IRS, has refused to testify at two Oversight Committee hearings, invoking her constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Koskinen was defiant at a hearing on Friday before the House Ways and Means Committee, refusing to apologize for the lost emails. Koskinen noted that the emails were lost in 2011, before any investigations into the targeting of political groups.
Koskinen said there was no evidence that Lerner intentional destroyed the emails. To the contrary, the IRS went to great lengths trying to retrieve lost documents on Lerner’s computer, even sending it to the agency’s forensic lab, he said.