Even if the IRS recovers thousands of missing emails belonging to key officials involved in the targeting of conservative groups, congressional investigators will likely "go on to something else" and continue to hound the agency, according to IRS commissioner John Koskinen.
Investigators “won't concede error. They'll say it was worth pursuing, which it is. Whether it was worth making a federal case out of it or not is another issue," he said in an interview this week with Tax Analysts, a nonprofit group.
Certain lawmakers, he added, are determined to go after the IRS for any reason they can find.
He claimed the emails, many of which belong to Lois Lerner, the disgraced former IRS official at the heart of the targeting scandal, likely contain no damning information. Still, he added, if the emails are recovered and the IRS is proven innocent of charges it has obstructed a congressional investigation, certain lawmakers will likely find something else to attack.
“[I]t's not going to surprise me to find out that when you get done with it all — it would be great if they found more e-mails — there's not going to be any evidence that anybody tried three years ago to destroy anything,” Koskinen said.
“Now, when that turns out to be true, it will be like there's nothing to show the White House was involved, we'll move on,” he said, referring to thousands of subpoenaed emails. “You know, the committee is very quick and they'll go to something else. They won't concede error. They'll say it was worth pursuing, which it is. Whether it was worth making a federal case out of it or not is another issue.”
Koskinen was brought on to rehabilitate the IRS' Image following Lerner's admission in 2013 that the agency had targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
“The core issue is an important issue. People ought to be treated fairly. The chase down a lot of different rabbit holes is going to turn out to be nonproductive. But when we get done with it all, my concern is the reference point won't be back to 'Well, see the IRS people were right and they produced all the documents and nothing was wrong,' will be your point,” he said.
“Well, there were all these things we could never quite get a straight story, to some extent because there are some people who don't want a straight story. They don't want this to end."
The IRS commissioner also said he is wary of calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.
“You know, the idea in some ways of whether there ought to be a special prosecutor, you know, I'm not sure if people really want a special prosecutor, because that would shut everything down. The special prosecutor then would have sole domain over this and so you wouldn't be holding all these fun hearings every week or two,” he said.
Congressional investigators released a set of emails Wednesday showing Lerner at one point complained that “crazies” on the right “will take [the country] down.”
“This email shows that Ms. Lerner’s mistreatment of conservative groups was driven by her personal hostility toward conservatives,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
”This new evidence clearly demonstrates why Ms. Lerner not only targeted conservatives, but denied such groups their rights to due process and equal protection under the law."