IRS commissioner answers questions from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer
IRS commissioner John Koskinen appeared on CNN Thursday with Wolf Blitzer, where he answered questions about the ongoing IRS scandal.
The embattled head of the Internal Revenue Service blames faulty technology for what he called serious problems under investigation by Congress, the Justice Department and the Treasury inspector general.
John Koskinen told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday that he apologized to anyone who had their application for tax-exempt status held up by IRS targeting of political labels.
“The improper criteria used to highlight organizations for investigation just by their name was a mistake,” Koskinen said. “I apologize to anybody who ever had their applications held up needlessly. Everybody needs to be confident that the IRS is going to treat them fairly no matter who they are. Republicans, Democrats, whatever organization they belong to. So it’s a serious matter.”
However, he maintained that evidence uncovered so far by six investigations found no involvement by the White House, as alleged by some Republicans:
When asked by Blitzer whether someone should be blamed for the “antiquated, awful system” that was the cause of emails lost in Lerner’s hard drive crash having been unrecoverable, Koskinen shifted away from the controversy at hand and focused instead on moving forward.
“Well, I think somebody, the IG, is investigating all of the issues about the hard drive crash.” Koskinen went on to explain, “My approach when I parachute into these things is to try to fix the problems rather than try to figure out who to blame, and sometime ago I asked for us to review exactly how the email system runs and whether we couldn’t convert to a more searchable, more retainable email system. I’ve also said we need to respond to the concerns of the archivist, who came out with a very interesting suggestion recently that for agencies struggling, moving forward into an electronic system, they should take the senior people and make sure all of those records and emails are preserved. I should emphasize that all emails are not official records, so if an email is lost, it doesn’t mean we’ve lost an official record.”
Koskinen dismissed the idea that there is a dual standard in how citizens are treated by the IRS if they were to respond that their records had been lost. As he has said in congressional committee hearings, Koskinen claimed that the IRS works with taxpayers and agrees to accept other evidence in place of lost or otherwise unavailable records.
Blitzer brought up the point that Koskinen has donated to Democrats, and asked that the IRS commissioner “reassure the American people that you’re not going to let your partisanship interfere with this investigation.”
“I’ve never been a partisan operative or political operative,” Koskinen responded. “I’ve contributed to campaigns for the last 40 or 50 years, many of them friends. At this point in my career, it’s not my intention at all to play games with the Congress, my goal is to help restore people’s faith in a critical institution for the country, the IRS. As I said, people need to feel comfortable that it’s not a politicized agency, that it treats people fairly no matter who they are.”
I would imagine there are quite a few people who have trouble believing that last part especially.
Watch highlights from the interview from CNN below.
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