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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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June 24th, 2014
06:35 PM ET

Meet the IRS clean-up man

Washington (CNN) – Amid the storm of congressional outrage and accusations, there he sat, serene as a saint: IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

One Democrat said Koskinen faced an "inquisition" while testifying before Congress Monday, and over the past week. But the commissioner has held his own, refusing to apologize, and denying that he misled Congress about lost e-mails.

The White House could not have picked a better brawler. Koskinen was trained in physics at Duke, and law at Yale. He worked for a New York mayor, a Connecticut senator, and was deputy mayor of Washington, D.C., during a financial crisis.

What he likes most, however, are seemingly lost causes.

He helped bring the World Cup to the U.S. in 1994, when many Americans didn't know what it was.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton tasked him with saving the nation's computers from what was feared would be a Y2K meltdown.

He headed Freddie Mac when its troubles were spinning out of control.

And now, with the IRS under heavy fire, Koskinen is once again in the middle of the fray.

"To say this is the most corrupt IRS in history ignores a lot of history, and seems to me, again, is a classic overreaction to a serious problem which we are dealing with seriously," he told Congress.

Koskinen delivers shattering news as calmly as if discussing the weather. When he was asked about the computer in which all those e-mails belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner were lost, his response elicited audible groans.

"I'm advised the actual hard drive, after it was determined that it was dysfunctional and that, with experts, no e-mails could be retrieved, was recycled then destroyed in the normal process," he said.

To interrogators, he seems maddeningly unflappable.

When pressed enough, Koskinen hits back hard and fast. For example, when asked why his agency did not better protect those lost records.

"Isn't that in fact a priority that should have allowed for full retention?" Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, asked.

"If we had the right resources there'd be a lot of priorities we'd have," Koskinen said.

Or when asked why he lacks evidence of Lerner's actions from some years back.

"I have no evidence whether she beat her dog, whether she beat children, I have no evidence of a whole series of things," Koskinen said.

And he is not above giving his opinion whenever he thinks someone needs it.

"I have a long career. This is the first time anybody has said they do not believe me," he said.

"I don't believe you," Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, replied.

"That's fine," Koskinen said.

Part of what may make it all fine for Koskinen, is his own situation. Financial disclosure papers show his personal wealth may be as high as $27 million; he's a major Democratic donor; and the soccer stadium back at his alma mater Duke is even named after him.

He doesn't need the job, or the abuse. He just seems to like it.

CNN's Kim Berryman contributed to this report.

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