Few who hold public office can channel the outrage of the American people quite like him.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) went on a rampage Friday morning while questioning IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who remained defiant over the “loss” of e-mails that were critical to an ongoing investigation.
“Sitting here listening to your testimony, I don’t believe it,” Ryan declared. “That’s your problem. No one believes you.”
“The apology that ought to be given is to the American taxpayer, not a government agency that is abusing its power,” Ryan said.
Over a year into the investigation of the IRS’s targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups, the IRS finally told Congress that a series of hard drive crashes had destroyed the e-mails of Lois Lerner and six other IRS employees. Lerner was the head of the division on tax-exempt organizations at the time the targeting occurred.
However, IT professionals and government officials have openly questioned the IRS’s story, since the government stores e-mails with a program called RAID that can withstand up to three server crashes. In addition to RAID, files are also stored on magnetic tapes. Other IT professionals have said that the IRS’s story doesn’t make sense, and that the files would have been recoverable.
Ryan pointed out that the IRS has tremendous power, and that the organization’s arrogance is astounding.
“You are the Internal Revenue Service,” he said. “You can reach into the lives of hard-working taxpayers and with a phone call, an e-mail or a letter you can turn their lives upside down. You ask taxpayers to hand onto seven years of their personal tax information in case they are ever audited and you can’t keep six months worth of employee e-mails? And now that we are seeing this investigation, you don’t have the e-mails, hard drives crashed. You learned about this months ago. You just told us, and we had to ask you on Monday.”
Koskinen tried to interrupt, but Ryan was not to be deterred.
“The Internal Revenue Service comes to us a couple years ago and misleads us and tells us no targeting is occurring. Then it said it was a few rogue agents in Cincinnati. Then it said it was also on progressives. All of those things have been proven untrue,” said Ryan.
“This is being misleading again,” Ryan continued. “This is a pattern of abuse, a pattern of behavior that is not giving us any confidence that this agency is being impartial. I don’t believe you. This is incredible.”
Koskinen bristled at the insinuation that he was lying, asserting that he has been forthcoming. That’s when Ryan really laid down the gauntlet.
“Here’s what being forthcoming is,” Ryan said. “If we are investigating criminal wrongdoing, targeting of people based on their political beliefs and the emails in question are lost because of a hard drive crash that is apparently unrecoverable, which a lot of IT professionals would question, and you don’t tell us about it until we ask you about it, that is not being forthcoming.”