WASHINGTON — The commissioner of the IRS apologized to Congress on Tuesday for information his agency lost and inaccurate statements he made during congressional investigations of its treatment of tea party and other conservative groups. But John Koskinen said he’s been truthful and cooperative and insisted it would be wrong to impeach him.
Koskinen made the remarks in a written statement prepared for his scheduled appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. That committee is examining an election-year effort by conservatives to impeach Koskinen, which has divided Republicans and is sure to ultimately fail for lack of votes.
Congressional Republicans launched several investigations after the IRS admitted in 2013 that during the 2010 and 2012 elections, it had singled out tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax exemptions to unusually stringent examinations.
The impeachment effort accuses Koskinen of hindering congressional investigators by lying and not providing documents, charges that he and Democrats have denied. Probes by Congress, the Justice Department and lawmakers have uncovered no proof that the IRS’ treatment of conservative groups was politically motivated or that any documents were purposely destroyed.
In his statement, Koskinen said he did all he could to preserve documents that investigators wanted and testified truthfully during prior appearances before congressional panels.
“But the truth is that we did not succeed in preserving all of the information requested and some of my testimony later proved mistaken. I regret both of those failings,” Koskinen said in his testimony, which was released late Tuesday.
Koskinen’s statement did not specify what he was referring to.
But documents his lawyers circulated last week noted that he told lawmakers in June 2014 that no emails had been destroyed since the congressional investigations began. It wasn’t until one year later that he learned that backup tapes containing numerous emails had been erased by IRS workers in March of 2014.
The IRS inspector general, who operates independently within the agency, and the Justice Department concluded last year that those tapes were erased by accident, not as part of an effort to hide information.
In a letter dated last Thursday that Democrats released on Tuesday, J. Russell George, the IRS inspector general, wrote that “no additional information has been uncovered that changes our conclusion in the report.” Two top Democrats, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Sander Levin of Michigan, had asked George to update his findings.
Koskinen said last spring that the erasure of those tapes was “clearly a failure” of IRS procedures.
This article has been corrected to show that Koskinen’s reference was to erasure of backup tapes, not destruction of a computer hard drive.