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U.S. Republican House panel demands Obama remove IRS commissioner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The chairman of a congressional investigative panel on Monday called for the ouster of the head of the Internal Revenue Service over a scandal involving the targeting of conservative political groups starting in 2013.

Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called on President Barack Obama to remove IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, saying he had “failed in his duty” to keep documentation and provide it to the committee.

“The IRS failed to comply with a congressional subpoena. The IRS further failed by making false statements to Congress. We will pursue all constitutional remedies at our disposal, including potential contempt proceedings or perhaps impeachment of Commissioner Koskinen,” the committee said in a statement.

The IRS reviews the activities of non-profits that apply for tax exemption because U.S. law limits their political involvement. Certain non-profits, designated 501(c)(4) organizations, had increasingly been used as conduits for political spending, especially by conservative Tea Party groups.

In May 2013, Lois Lerner, who headed an IRS unit involved in applying extra scrutiny to conservative political groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, apologized in public for what she called “inappropriate” review of conservative groups’ applications. Republicans have been investigating since then.

Koskinen has denied during congressional hearings any attempts to withhold information, and Democrats have accused Republicans of using the case to try to stir up their political base.

Part of the controversy stems from a computer crash that the IRS said caused it to lose emails written by Lerner, who retired in September 2013, prompting Republicans in June 2014 to accuse the IRS of hiding them and obstructing their inquiry.

Koskinen “misled Congress and the American people when he appeared before the Oversight Committee in 2014 and asserted he would produce all of Ms. Lerner’s emails,” Chaffetz said in the statement.

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