Koskinen Relying on 'Common Sense,' Not Criminal Statutes, In Evaluating IRS Scandal

Susan Jones | June 24, 2014 | 6:27am EDT
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IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is sworn in as the House Oversight Committee continues its probe of whether tea party groups were improperly targeted for increased scrutiny by the IRS, on Monday, June 23, 2014. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - In a heated exchange with Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) Monday night, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen conceded that he is relying on "common sense" when he says he's seen no evidence of criminal wrongdoing at the Internal Revenue Service.

He said he has not looked at any criminal statutes to draw that conclusion.

"You have already said multiple times today that there was no evidence that you found of any criminal wrongdoing," Gowdy said. "I want you to tell me what criminal statutes you have evaluated."

"I have not looked at any," Koskinen said. (Moments earlier, Koskinen told Gowdy that he had practiced law "once 45 years ago, gave it up for Lent one year, and never went back.")

"Well, then how can you possibly tell our fellow citizens that there's no criminal wrongdoing if you don't even know what statutes to look at?" Gowdy asked.

"Because I've seen no evidence that anyone consciously--"

"Well, how would you know what elements of the crime existed?" Gowdy interrupted. "You don't even know what statutes are in play. I'm going to ask you again. What statutes have you evaluated?"

"Ah, I think you can rely on common sense that nothing I have seen--"

"Common sense! Instead of the criminal code, you want to rely on comon sense? No, you can shake your head all you want to, Commissioner. You have said today there's no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and I'm asking you, what criminal statutes you have reviewed to reach that conclusion?"

"I have reviewed no criminal statutes," Koskinen said again.

"All right, so you don't have any idea whether there's any criminal conduct or not because you don't know the elements of the offense," Gowdy said.

"I have seen no evidence of wrongdoing," Koskinen said.

"Oh, well, that's very different than no evidence of criminal misconduct, Commissioner."

Koskinen tried again: "It seems to me if you haven't done wrongdoing, it would be pretty hard to argue that you had some criminal violation if you didn't--"

Gowdy interrupted and changed the subject: "Well, what did Lois Lerner mean when she said perhaps the FEC (Federal Election Commission) would save the day?"

"I have no idea--"

"What did she mean when she said we need a project, but we need to be careful that it doesn't appear to  be per se political. You don't think that's a potential violation of 18242?"

"I have no idea--"

"Because you haven't looked at 18242," Gowdy said, referring to public law. "And you don't have any idea, Commissioner -- you don't have any idea whether there was any criminal wrongdoing or not."

"With regard to the production of the evidence, the production of Lois Lerner emails, I have seen no evidence of wrongdoing," Koskinen said. "What else went on with Lois Lerner, I said in the past--"

"So what you're saying is, you don't have any idea whether she engaged in criminal wrongdoing. You're just saying that you did not engage in any with respect to the emails."

"I haven't seen any wrongdoing with regard to the production of Lois Lerner emails," Koskinen agreed.

"But you are not saying there was no criminal wrongdoing with respect to the targeting of conservative groups? I want to be very clear. You're not saying that," Gowdy clarified.

"I've made no judgements about that," Koskinen said.

"So you disagree with the president when he says there is not a smidgen of corruption?" Gowdy asked.

"There have been people who have been making judgements, both sides, about whether there were--"

"And you know what, I'm not one of those," Gowdy interrupted. "I'm just simply saying we will never know because you didn't keep the evidence. The evidence was foliated (destroyed). And whether it's negligent, whether it's intentional, whether it's reckless -- we still don't have the evidence, Commissioner."

"Well, you have the evidence that there is no emails from the White House, you have all of the Treasury emails, so the basic premise that this was an argument, a conspiracy driven by the White House does not--

No sir, you're wrong about that. You're wrong about that. You're repeating a talking point from our colleagues on the other side that we're obsessed with the White House. It was Jay Carney who perpetuated the myth that it was two rogue (IRS) agents in Ohio. It wasn't any of us. Was that accurate?" Gowdy asked.

"Not that I know of," Koskinen said.

"All right, so that wasn't accurate, and that came from the White House. Who said there's not a smidgen of corruption. Who said that, Commissioner?"

"My understanding is, that was the president," Koskinen said.

"It was the president," Gowdy agreed. "So that's Jay Carney and the president both inserting themselves into the IRS scandal. And you want to blame us for bringing the White House into it?

"I haven't blamed you at all."

"You just did, Commissioner. You just did."

"Well, it's a good argument. All I said was the White House has revealed there were no Lois Lerner emails. Treasury has given you all of their emails. But to the extent that the argument was that Lois Lerner was conspiring and emailing back and forth -- thus far, I haven't seen any--

"You can be engaged in a conspiracy that doesn't include the White House," Gowdy exclaimed.

Gentlemen, gentlemen -- time's up." And that's where the exchange ended.

Also See:

Koskinen to Issa: 'I Never Said I Would Provide You Emails We Didn't Have'

Rep. Jim Jordan: 'At What Point Does It Become Obstruction of Justice?'

White House Learned of Lerner's Crashed Hard Drive 6 Weeks Before Congress Did

Paul Ryan Obliterates IRS Commissioner: 'I Don’t Believe You'

Flashback: Koskinen Has Hard Time Saying If IRS Will Hand Over All Lerner's Emails

Congress to Obama: Send Us 'All Communications' Between Your Office and Lois Lerner

WH on Lois Lerner's Vanished Emails: 'You've Never Heard of A Computer Crashing Before?'

IRS Apologizes for Targeting Tea Party Groups


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