Republicans Concede Inaccuracies in Resolution to Censure IRS Commissioner, But Double-Down on Conspiracy Theories

Jun 15, 2016
Press Release

Republicans Concede Inaccuracies in Resolution to Censure IRS Commissioner, But Double-Down on Conspiracy Theories


Republicans Delay Vote to Find Enough Members to Support


Washington, D.C. (June 15, 2016)—During a business meeting today before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to vote on a resolution introduced by Chairman Jason Chaffetz to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Republicans admitted one mistake in their flawed resolution, but refused to correct several others.  Republicans also rejected the findings of the Republican Inspector General who conducted an exhaustive, multi-year, $2 million investigation and found no evidence of political motivation in screening applicants for tax-exempt status and no evidence that anyone obstructed Congress.

Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings stated in his opening statement:

“Mr. Chairman, I say this as your friend—you are completely and totally wrong on this one.  The Department of Justice disagrees with you.  The Republican Inspector General disagrees with you.  Even Senator Hatch, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, disagrees with you.  There was no politically motivated targeting at the IRS.  There was no lying to Congress.  There was no obstruction of justice.  It simply did not happen.  After three years and more than $20 million, it is finally time to put these baseless conspiracy theories to rest.  This resolution is a waste of time, it is going nowhere, it has no practical effect, and—as respectfully as I can say this—it is time to give this up.  It is now undermining the credibility and the integrity of this Committee and the work we do.”

Republicans delayed the final vote on the resolution when it became clear they did not have enough Members present to pass their resolution. Below are key highlights from the markup:

Inaccurately Splicing Together Quotes:  Ranking Member Cummings successfully offered an amendment to correct the inaccurate resolution, which spliced together two quotes from Commissioner Koskinen as if he said them at the same time when in fact he said them at different hearings.  As Cummings said to the Chairman:  “I want to make crystal clear again that I do not believe you intentionally made these inaccurate statements.  I don’t believe you tried to deceive this Committee or the House.  I believe you thought they were accurate at the time, and you relied on your staff.  I believe the same thing about Commissioner Koskinen.  He’s been honest with us, he told us what he knew at the time, and he relied on his staff—just like you did, and just like I do.”  Chaffetz agreed his resolution was inaccurate and accepted the amendment, stating:  “The gentleman is correct.”

Disregarding Basic Facts:  Republicans continued to insist, however, that Commissioner Koskinen should be fired in part because he did not check Lois Lerner’s Blackberry, despite a fact pointed out by Democrats that the Inspector General took possession of her Blackberry six months before Koskinen became Commissioner.  On June 30, 2015, the Inspector General issued a report stating that it “took possession of Lerner’s BlackBerry on June 10, 2013, after she left the IRS.”  Commissioner Koskinen was not sworn in until December 23, 2013.  Although Chaffetz admitted that “the record is clear” that Ms. Lerner’s Blackberry “did go into the possession of TIGTA,” Republicans opposed the amendment and refused to fix this inaccurate and misleading statement in their resolution.

Perpetuating Baseless Conspiracy Theories:  Republicans also continued to insist—without any evidence to support their claim—that the Commissioner had personal knowledge of Ms. Lerner’s missing emails in February 2014, despite the fact that he testified repeatedly that he was not informed until April 2014.  Republicans continued to suggest that because someone at the IRS knew, Commissioner Koskinen must have known.  As Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence stated, “The only reason this resolution includes language is because, for some reason, it’s part of the plan to have this massive attack.  But it’s wrong, and it’s inaccurate, and it needs to be corrected.”

Completely Ignoring Republican Inspector General:  Republicans also refused to adopt an amendment offered by Rep. Matthew Cartwright to strike the resolution’s unsubstantiated claims and replace them with the verbatim conclusions of Republican Inspector General Russell George after his exhaustive, multi-year, $2 million investigation.  George identified no political targeting of any group, no order to destroy any emails, and no obstruction of any investigation.  Instead, he testified that Commissioner Koskinen was “extraordinarily cooperative.”  As Rep. Cartwright stated, “The bottom-line is that in order to vote for this censure resolution, you’d  have to believe that Inspector General George is lying.”

Making Inaccurate Claims About the Resolution:  At the conclusion of the markup, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton pointed out that despite public statements by the Chairman that his resolution “requires” Commissioner Koskinen to forfeit his pension, the resolution merely expresses the “sense of the House” and has no effect whatsoever on the Commissioner’s position or benefits.

114th Congress