Why does IRS chief who stonewalled Congress on targeting scandal still have a job?

IRS commissioner John Koskinen did not make a good impression at hearings of the House Oversight Committee on the agency's targeting of conservative groups.  He was arrogant and unresponsive and made snide comments about GOP members of the committee.

Although appointed by the president to a term that ends this November, Koskinen has said he will step aside if the Trump White House requests it.  If that's the case, you would think Koskinen would be one of the first Obama holdovers to lose his job.  But more than 60 days into the Trump administration, Koskinen is still pulling down a generous government salary and will actually testify before the Senate Finance Committee this week.

There are two major reasons Koskinen is still in charge of the IRS: Democrats are slow-walking Trump nominees through the confirmation process, and Trump himself has failed to name dozens of under-secretaries and assistant secretaries in various federal departments.

The Hill:

Some Republicans lawmakers have asked President Trump to ask for Koskinen's resignation. The commissioner's term expires in November, but he has said he would step aside sooner if asked by the president.

But more than two months into Trump's presidency, Koskinen is still in office, and the White House has not given a definitive answer about his future.

Koskinen will be in the spotlight in the coming weeks ahead of the April 18 tax-filing deadline. He is scheduled to speak at the National Press Club on Wednesday and before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. 

Former President Obama nominated Koskinen to lead the IRS in 2013, not long after it was revealed that the agency had subjected Tea Party groups' applications for tax-exempt status to extra scrutiny and delays. Koskinen had not previously worked at the IRS and had a background as a turnaround specialist. 

Many Republicans accuse Koskinen of impeding congressional investigations into the political-targeting scandal. They argue that he made false and misleading statements under oath and didn't comply with a subpoena. 

During the last months of Obama's presidency, some House Republicans pushed for a vote on Koskinen's impeachment, despite reservations from House GOP leadership.

With a record like that, it's no wonder House Republicans have been calling for the commissioner's resignation.  But the internal vetting of dozens of nominees is going a lot slower than in previous new administrations, and Democrats aren't helping matters any by taking their time confirming nominees the White House already sent up.

But in Koskinen's case, could it be that he and Trump have a personal connection that goes back decades?

"My impression is that the administration is of two minds on this" and it's still figuring out how to address the issue, said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. His group and other conservative organizations recently had a meeting with White House officials where the topic of Koskinen's future was discussed.

Fitton noted that Trump and Koskinen have a personal connection, which could make Trump hesitant to act.

Koskinen and Trump first met each other in the 1970s. At the time, Koskinen worked for a firm that managed non-rail assets of Penn Central, which had filed for bankruptcy. One of those assets was the Commodore Hotel, which Trump purchased in his first big business deal.

Trump may not want to bull-rush his old friend out of a job, but I think it's more a question of the administration's curious delays in nominating executive department officials.  An example is the Pentagon.  Trump has filled exactly one of 52 positions, and there have been delays on other nominees because the paperwork from the White House has been slow in coming.

The president has the statutory authority to fill 4,000 jobs.  Given Trump's promises to actually shrink government, it shouldn't surprise us if one reason for the delays in nominating executive department employees is the president's desire to find out how many of those jobs are actually necessary to the functioning of government.  Eventually, after Jared Kushner's review of the structure of government, the president may decide to lop off dozens – perhaps hundreds – of these agencies and departments, making filling a vacancy unnecessary.

But there is wide agreement in the Republican Party to fire John Koskinen sooner rather than later.