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Thursday, May 19, 2016
House oversight chairman moves to censure IRS chief, strip pension
The chairman of the top House investigative panel introduced a measure Wednesday to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen -- and remove him from office without a pension -- in the latest bid by Republicans to pressure him into being more cooperative in their probe of the 2013 IRS targeting scandal.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is seeking Koskinen’s resignation or removal for what he calls an alleged “pattern of conduct inconsistent with the trust and confidence placed in him as an officer of the United States.”
If censured, Koskinen, who became commissioner in 2013, would also forfeit his government pension and other federal benefits.
House Republicans are upset with what they consider Koskinen's failure to cooperate with their investigation of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials who targeted for additional scrutiny conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Chaffetz on Wednesday cited a long list of grievances in calling for the censure -- including Koskinen allegedly lying under oath, allowing “key evidence” to be destroyed by failing to comply with a subpoena and not preserving backup computer tapes that contained as many as 24,000 missing Lerner emails, allegedly destroyed by a computer malfunction.
“Koskinen must be held accountable for his misconduct,” Chaffetz said in a statement. “I am committed to using every tool at my disposal to hold Mr. Koskinen responsible for his offenses.”
A Justice Department probe completed last year found no evidence that any IRS employee acted in a way that would support “criminal prosecution.”
The committee’s efforts Wednesday to begin the censure effort comes six days before the House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing to examine alleged Koskinen misconduct.
In July 2015, Chaffetz and 51 members of Congress sent President Obama aletter calling for Koskinen’s removal.
Three months later, Chaffetz introduced a resolution to begin House proceedings to impeach the commissioner. The resolution was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and now has 69 co-sponsors.
The IRS has disputed Republican allegations that Koskinen has been unhelpful, saying last year, "We have fully cooperated with all of the investigations."
Democrats have derided the GOP investigations as ungrounded partisan attacks aimed at stirring up conservative voters.
"House Republican efforts to impeach or censure the IRS commissioner are exercises in partisanship and a total waste of time and money," Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on Chaffetz's committee, said Wednesday in a written statement. He said Republican investigations have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars "chasing false political conspiracy theories."
Censure is sometimes used to discipline House members. The chamber voted in 2010 to censure Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., for roughly a dozen infractions include ones related to failing to pay property taxes.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.