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Cummings Issues Statement on Republican Video, Letter, and Press Conference on IRS Treatment of Nonprofit Applicants

Jul 27, 2015
Press Release

Cummings Issues Statement on Republican Video, Letter, and Press Conference on IRS Treatment of Nonprofit Applicants

 

Dismisses Republican Calls for IRS Commissioner’s Departure as “Manufactured Republican Political Crisis”

 

Washington, D.C. (July 27, 2015)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement in response to calls by Republicans to remove IRS Commissioner John Koskinen:

“This is a strange, oddly-timed rehashing of conspiracy theories that were debunked by the Inspector General himself—who concluded in a report to the Oversight Committee just last month that there is no evidence to substantiate these claims.  Although this video, letter, and press conference appear to be designed to preempt a report from the Senate Finance Committee on this matter, there is no new information here.  The bottom-line is that the Inspector General found no evidence to back-up Republican claims of political motivation, White House involvement, or intentional destruction of evidence.  Calls for Commissioner Koskinen to step down are nothing more than a manufactured Republican political crisis based on allegations that have already been debunked.”

On June 30, 2014, the Special Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a report to the Oversight Committee after interviewing 118 witnesses and reviewing more than 20 terabytes of data.  This report debunks many of the claims Republicans have been making for years and are making again today.

Republicans suggest that Lois Lerner intentionally crashed her hard drive about a week after receiving a letter from Rep. Dave Camp.

  •         To the contrary, the IG report issued on June 30 identified no evidence that Ms. Lerner intentionally crashed her computer.  Instead, the report confirmed that IRS IT technicians “did not observe any indications of tampering or physical damage to LERNER’s laptop.”
  •          In addition, the Committee had already obtained contemporaneous emails sent at the time indicating that Ms. Lerner’s computer crash was the result of a technical malfunction.
  •         The Washington Post Fact Checker awarded three Pinocchios to Republican claims that Rep. Camp’s June 3, 2011, letter initiated this series of events, concluding:  “Recall that the issue involving Lois Lerner was the targeting of conservative advocacy groups applying for 501(c)(4) status.  But this letter concerned something different—the IRS’s decision to send letters to the donors of such organizations that their contributions might be subject to gift taxes.” 

Republicans suggest that backup tapes were intentionally destroyed at the behest of President Obama to obstruct investigations.

  •         To the contrary, the IG report found:  “No evidence was uncovered that any IRS employees had been directed to destroy or hide information from Congress, the DOJ or TIGTA.”
  •         The IG report also found:  “the investigation did not uncover evidence that the IRS and its employees purposely erased the tapes in order to conceal responsive e-mails from the Congress, the DOJ and TIGTA.”
  •         The IG report also found “no evidence that the IRS employees involved intended to destroy data on the tapes or the hard drives in order to keep this information from Congress, the DOJ or TIGTA.”

Republicans suggest that Commissioner Koskinen did not request that backup tapes be forensically examined because he was trying to hide information from Congress.

  •         To the contrary, the IG report described how the former Deputy Chief Information Officer for Enterprise Networks at the IRS, Stephen Manning, made these decisions.  The IG report stated:  “MANNING stated that he was responsible for providing technical explanations to IRS senior management and Chief Counsel, as well as coordinating the internal flow of data from IRS IT personnel during the process of gathering data for the IRS’ production process to Congress for the IRS EO matter.”
  •         The IG report also stated:  “MANNING stated that the decisions on whether or not to restore data from tape backups rested with IRS Chief Counsel, but it was not considered because the tape backups only went back to November 2012, which was significantly after LERNER’s hard drive failure in 2011.”
  •         In fact, the Committee interviewed Mr. Manning on April 6, 2015, at which time he stated that he never presented the Commissioner with the option of forensically examining backup tapes because he considered it a “hail Mary pass” and it was an “IT technical kind of discussion.”

Republicans suggest that the IRS was intentionally hiding more than 1,000 emails that were later recovered.

  •         To the contrary, the Deputy Inspector General for Investigations testified before the Committee on June 25, 2015:  “A review of these new e-mails did not provide additional information for the purposes of our investigation.”
  •         Instead, these so-called “new” emails pertained to unrelated topics.  For instance, one of the recovered emails that the Inspector General produced to Congress is a December 25, 2012, email from eBay advertising holiday shopping deals.  Another newly discovered email is from FlowerShopping.com a few days before.

Republicans suggest that we have no answers about how this activity began.

  •         To the contrary, the Oversight Committee determined more than two years ago how this began when it interviewed a self-identified conservative Republican Screening Group Manager who worked at the IRS for 21 years as a civil servant and supervised a team of Screening Agents in the Cincinnati field office:   

Q:        Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen Tea Party cases?

A:         I have no reason to believe that.

Q:        Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to centralize the review of Tea Party cases?

A:         I have no reason to believe that.

 

  •         The Screening Group Manager agreed with the decision of his screening agent to flag the first “Tea Party” case at issue in the investigation to be forwarded up the chain to officials in the Exempt Organizations office in Washington.  According to the Screening Group Manager:

“The reason that the case was elevated to EO Technical was based upon, you know, the high-profile issue.  The agent appropriately identified the issue as not being fully developed, and that it should be gone into the inventory and assigned for that purpose.  It wasn’t the purpose of the difficulty of those issues that was the—you know, the reason that I elevated it to my manager.  It was more the high-profile part of the case.”

  •         In addition, the Inspector General’s previous report in May 2013 concluded that Lois Lerner “immediately directed that the criteria be changed” as soon as she learned of them.
114th Congress