In an uncharacteristic display of emotion, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) exploded at IRS commissioner John Koskinen at a hearing on Capitol Hill Friday morning.
The House Ways and Means Committee hearing was held to address concerns over the agency’s claims two years’ worth of emails from ex-official Lois Lerner and other employees are not retrievable because of a destroyed hard drive. The emails had been subpoenaed in the ongoing investigation into the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups’ tax-exempt status.
Ryan, who seemed incensed when Koskinen refused to apologise at the start of the hearing, proceeded to rip into the IRS commissioner.
“This is unbelievable,” Ryan said. “The apology that ought to be given is to the American taxpayer, not to a government agency that is abusing its power. I am sitting here listening to this testimony. I don’t believe it. That’s your problem. Nobody believes you.”
“Come on, now,” someone in the background can be heard saying in video of the back-and-forth.
Ryan kept going, accusing the IRS of misleading congressional investigators by first denying any targeting of conservative groups and then claiming progressive groups were also targeted. Ryan also blasted Koskinen for “burying” the news they had lost Lerner and other employees’ emails near the end of a 27-page letter to senators.
“I don’t believe you. This is incredible,” Ryan said.
“I’ve had a long career. That’s the first time anybody has said that they do not believe me,” Koskinen said.
“I don’t believe you,” Ryan shot back.
The exchange served as a rare moment of intense emotion from the normally stoic Ryan. A senior Democratic House aide emailed to the back-and-forth showed Ryan, who is openly eyeing chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee next year, “has boarded the Tea Party express.”
Here’s the video, via Fox News:
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