Jordan to IRS Commissioner: 'You Caused the Subpoena'

July 24, 2014 - 6:25 PM

Jim Jordan

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) -- Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on Wednesday took IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to task before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee  for blaming Congress for causing employee anxiety by issuing subpoenas, especially in the case of IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane.

"Regarding the morale issue, if the IRS would have been willing to let Tom Kane come and be interviewed, we wouldn't have had to issue the subpoena.  One thing that impacts morale is when you get a subpoena. I get that, but that's your cause. You caused the subpoena, Mr. Koskinen. We didn't. We tried for weeks to get Mr. Kane to come and be interviewed, and you guys said, 'No, can't do it.' So, we had to issue the subpoena, and we got all kinds of information that contradicts testimony you've given in front of Congress. So that's the issue," Jordan said.

Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) referenced Kane's testimony before the full committee that IRS employees "who have been working tirelessly to help the IRS comply with Congress  were 'visibly impacted in a very negative way.'" She asked Koskinen to address any concerns he had about the impact the congressional investigations had on the agency's "morale and ability to perform its core functions."

Koskinen said it had a "deleterious effect on morale, because they thought they were actually doing what they were asked to do."

"They were trying to provide information. Most of them have never had a deposition of theirs taken. They haven't spent six, eight hours under cross examination, so for everybody else who's working on this project, they're now looking over their shoulder worrying about am I gonna get called next and all they've been doing is producing documents," said Koskinen.

"As we ask people to do productions and just respond to congressional inquiries, if they become subjects of depositions and cross examinations, it's gonna be harder to get people to decide they want to leave their day job and help us respond to Congress," Koskinen told Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

"So that's our only broader concern, but again, we think it's appropriate, and we're happy to cooperate with the committee as best we can," added Koskinen.

"I would just make one point. The witness testified that they don't talk about this issue and prepare and discuss and prep for it. That's just not accurate," said Jordan. He said the committee interviewed an IRS employee Tuesday who told them "specifically that when Steve Manning came and briefed the Ways and Means Committee, there was prep sessions done for Mr. Manning to get ready to come in front of Congress."

"So to portray it as you're not talking about this as you bring people before Congress is just not accurate. And regarding the morale issue, if the IRS would have been willing to let Tom Kane come and be interviewed, we wouldn't have had to issue the subpoena," said Jordan.

"One thing that impacts morale is when you get a subpoena. I get that, but that's your cause. You caused the subpoena, Mr. Koskinen. We didn't. We tried for weeks to get Mr. Kane to come and be interviewed, and you guys said, 'No, can't do it.' So, we had to issue the subpoena, and we got all kinds of information that contradicts testimony you've given in front of Congress. So that's the issue," he added.

"We're talking about morale. You could have helped morale of the very employees you represent if you'd let him be interviewed by us without a subpoena," said Jordan.

"We actually agree. Subpoenas sound different, but when they come for an interview, it's still under oath, and it's still a transcribed interview, and it looks just like a deposition, and that's for people who've never done it before," said Koskinen. "They get nervous."

"Yeah, and my point is by you making it so we had the subpoena though, that only adds to the anxiety of the employee, so that's your creation on your employees, not ours," said Jordan.

"And that's why we're delighted to work out with you a schedule where there won't be subpoenas, but people will still come--" said Koskinen.

"We appreciate that, but it took a subpoena to get that rolling," Jordan said.

When Cummings asked Koskinen why Kane had to be subpoenaed, Koskinen said the IRS was "in the process of discussing the production of witnesses."

"We as I say were concerned about interfering with the IG's investigation, and while we were doing that, as the chairman said, then Mr. Kane got a subpoena, which did A) allow him to appear without any further ado and did allow us to basically have a conversation about setting up a production schedule of witnesses. So, the chairman is right," he said.

"We were in the process of trying to do this, but I would say we take some responsibility for the fact that you had to do a subpoena. I would agree with you," added Koskinen.

"You take all of it. We asked. Mr. Kane told-- during his deposition, because he had to be subpoenaed, he told committee staff that he wasn't even notified by you Mr. Koskinen or Ms. Duvall, or whoever that we had requested an interview. He didn't even know that," said Jordan.

"All he knew is he got the subpoena, so you didn't even tell him that we were trying to interview him. That's what he told us in the deposition last Thursday. So it's not, it's all on you. You're the reason we had to subpoena the individual to get his testimony," Jordan added.

"But he eventually came voluntarily, is that right?" Cummings asked Jordan.

"Yeah, but after he hired private counsel, after we sent his subpoena," Jordan said.