Griffin: IRS Commissioner’s Answers “Incomplete” and “Unacceptable”

Jun 20, 2014 Issues: Civil Rights, Congressional Issues

WASHINGTON – Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, issued the following statement after the Committee held a hearing to question IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about the disappearance of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee emails due to a computer hard drive crash, most notably the loss of emails of former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner from 2009 to 2011:

“It’s clear from today’s hearing that IRS Commissioner Koskinen’s answers to the Committee’s questions have been incomplete and unacceptable. As early as February, the IRS knew about the email data loss, yet Koskinen failed to inform Congress of this issue until June despite having every opportunity to do so when he testified at congressional hearings in February, March and May. It is also outrageous that Koskinen today likened the IRS’ computer system to a Model T car, when the IRS has had an information technology (IT) budget of $2 billion a year for the last 10 years. From Benghazi to the VA to the IRS, the recurring excuse from this Administration is their incompetence and lack of knowledge, which is not reassuring. American taxpayers cannot claim that they lost their receipts when trying to pay their taxes, and the IRS must be held to the same standard. We demand accountability at the IRS and will continue searching for the truth as we investigate the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.”

To view more information on today’s Ways and Means Committee hearing, click here. For more information on the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee hearing in May where Koskinen testified, click here. For more information on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s hearing in March where Koskinen testified, click here. For more information on the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee hearing in February where Koskinen testified, click here.

June 20, 2014 Ways and Means Hearing Transcript:

REPRESENTATIVE TIM GRIFFIN (R-AR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Commissioner, for being here.

I just want to follow up on a few of the issues. When asked by my colleagues why the timing of the disclosure regarding the hard drives was June as opposed to May or April or March or earlier, you indicated you thought it made sense to just wait until you got all the information or did your analysis and what have you and to sort of -- once you got all that figured out, then let us know.

I would just tell you, having been a counsel on the House Government Reform Committee, having served on this committee, having served at the White House and to the Department of Justice, I wouldn't take that approach anymore. That's not the way this city works. When you know and anyone at the IRS -- in fact I would say that you were disserved by your -- by the legislative folks at the IRS if they did not tell you when you started -- they should have walked in and said, this is a hot topic, there are numerous hearings on the Hill; Senators and members of Congress, particularly the Ways and Means Committee is going to want to know what's going on with this Lois Lerner situation; by the way, we had some hard drive problems, and we never told anybody; let's not wait; it's in everybody's interest to tell the Hill.

Now, I know about the 770,000 documents and all that stuff. I used to be the guy on the House Government Reform Committee, who, on a Friday night, got a box, got 10 boxes from the White House in the late '90s. I was the guy that actually went through those thousands. And I can tell you that the numbers are misleading, because you get a bunch of blank sheets, you get a bunch of nothing that -- there's not a lot of substance to there are usually. Yes, I understand you're producing them, a bunch of them, but the number in and of itself doesn't tell you a lot.

But the bottom line is, I would have just -- I would just approach this committee differently, and I think you would get a different response from now on, because people here feel like they need to know, and they want it to be a conversation. They don't want it to be a situation -- and I know how this works, where the leg (ph) folks say and the White House says, don't answer that unless they ask you specifically; if they don't ask the right question, don't give them that answer.

Now, I can tell you that happens all the time. And I know for a fact it happened to one of my colleagues here that was telling me earlier, not necessarily with you but with someone else.

I'll give you an example. So you were interviewed in March of this year and a -- in a fellow committee, and you were interviewed by the -- Chairman Boustany up here, Dr. Boustany, and there were numerous times where you were asked about the Lois Lerner emails. And you would say things like, we're going to produce them, we're working on redactions, we're looking at this, we're looking at that. There was never one mention of an issue, as you describe it. There was never one mention of a glitch. And you know, with all due respect -- my daughter is here with me this week . That's like when she -- I don't ask the right question about what she ate, and then I find out that she ate a box of cookies, and she didn't tell me because I didn't ask the right question. Well, she didn't tell me because she knew I would be mad.

And I think you had numerous opportunities in these transcripts to just say, hey, we're going to get you all the emails that we have, but I want you to know we've got some problems and you should know about the hard drive. And it never happened. We face this with Lois

Lerner when we ask about the (c)(4)s. We never asked them the precise right question, so we never got our answer. I know how that game's played. I've been up here long enough. And I'm saying if you want to get a different attitude from this committee, go ahead and share what the political people are telling you not to share. Just tell us. Just tell us, share it. And if it's -- if it's surplusage, we'll ignore it.

And one more thing. I do have a question. Do you know of anyone in the IRS who has gone before a grand jury on this issue, or do you know of any grand jury subpoenas that have been issued on this investigation?

MR. KOSKINEN: I know of none.

REP. GRIFFIN: None. None whatsoever. Do you know of a Department of Justice investigation on this at all, criminal investigation?

MR. KOSKINEN: I don't know anything about that investigation. I've not been -- not interfered with anybody's investigation.

REP. GRIFFIN: Thank you.