The IRS claim that countless emails sent by former official Lois Lerner were destroyed in a hard drive crash has led to widespread speculation that the mishap was actually orchestrated to prevent a thorough investigation into the agency.
Lerner has been implicated in a scheme to unfairly scrutinize conservative organizations prior to the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. A current congressional investigation hoping to determine how many other officials were involved in the targeting has been stymied due to the loss of these vital correspondences.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was in the hot seat Friday as he testified before Congress regarding the scandal and allegations of a cover-up. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp had some tough questions regarding the agency’s reticence in disclosing relevant information.
“The IRS knew in February or maybe even in March,” he said; “and the Treasury and the White House knew at least in April. But Congress and the American people didn’t find out until June. Were you purposely not telling us? Were you purposely not revealing this to the American people?”
While Koskinen claimed the IRS was simply waiting until a final report was completed, Camp was undeterred in his direct line of questioning.
“So why did the IRS inform the Executive Branch agencies, the White House, the administration, but kept it secret from the Congress who was conducting an investigation?”
The commissioner stuck to his talking point that “when we provide information, we should provide it completely,” explaining his apparent intent was to submit a complete report so that there would be no room for misunderstanding.
Camp retorted, “It’s OK for the White House and Treasury to leap to a conclusion six weeks before the Congress.”
When Koskinen alleged that he had no idea that such a revelation was made, and that he has “no communications with the White House,” Camp’s response grew even more excited.
“You’re the head of the IRS,” he exclaimed. “You don’t know something this important? Contacts between your agency and the Executive Branch? You’re unaware of them?”
Tellingly, Koskinen’s testimony began with his assertion that the IRS has no reason to apologize to investigators or the American public.
“I don’t think an apology is owed,” he stated. “Not a single email has been lost since the start of this investigation.”
Photo credit: SEIU (Flickr)