House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform leaders made their case Tuesday to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
Committee Chairman [crscore]Jason Chaffetz[/crscore] and Subcommittee on National Security Chairman [crscore]Ron DeSantis[/crscore] rolled out their case for impeaching Koskinen for ignoring subpoenas and lying to Congress under oath on the IRS targeting of conservative groups during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns.
“Surely, this House should find it intolerable,” DeSantis testified. “As of today, not a single individual has been held accountable in any real way for what happened with the IRS. If Commissioner Koskinen can get away with his conduct, then other executive branch agencies will have a blueprint for how to stymie the Congress when it conducts legitimate oversight. This will further erode the power of the Congress, which is arguably at its historical nadir.”
Rep. [crscore]Jim Jordan[/crscore], one of Koskinen’s most determined critics, pointed out the standard for impeachment isn’t criminal behavior, but gross negligence, dereliction of duty and breach of public trust.
The arguments of the impeachment advocates were delivered to a judiciary panel whose chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, carefully avoided the word “impeachment” in titling the hearing “Examining the Allegations of Misconduct Against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.”
Democrats on the panel, led by Rep. [crscore]Hank Johnson[/crscore], quickly seized on the omission and called the IRS targeting controversy a “so-called” scandal.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee pointed out multiple times “this is not an impeachment hearing,” and House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers said it is “no wonder” that “we have read reports of Speaker Ryan doing his best to make certain this measure never reaches the floor of the House — as Speaker Boehner did before him.”
The Hill previously reported conservatives cornered Speaker of the House [crscore]Paul Ryan[/crscore] into allowing hearings, threatening to hold an impeachment vote on the House floor if he didn’t, something Democrats have been quick to acknowledge.
President Barack Obama appointed Koskinen in the wake of the conservative targeting scandal, in which the agency singled out hundreds of conservative and Tea Party groups to delay applications for tax-exempt status. Koskinen and former IRS executive Lois Lerner soon became emblematic of IRS problems.
Koskinen told the Chaffetz panel he would hand over all emails to and from Lerner, former director of the IRS Tax Exempt Organizations Unit, as late as March, 2014. He changed his story in June, 2014, telling irate members of Congress 422 backup tapes of Lerner’s emails were destroyed, despite multiple preservation orders. Koskinen’s critics claim he was aware of the destruction well before he told Congress.
The inspector general for tax administration discovered 722 backup tapes containing Lerner’s emails at an IRS facility roughly an hour-and-a-half drive from Washington, D.C., in Martinsburg, W.V. Attendants at that facility said nobody ever asked for the tapes, despite Koskinen’s claims he and his staff looked everywhere.
Oversight panel members called on Obama to remove 76-year-old Koskinen last summer, without result. The judicial panel will hold a second hearing on a yet-to-be-announced date in June.
Democrats have long criticized allegations against Koskinen as nothing more than a move that “arises from the worst partisan instincts,” as Conyers said Tuesday, and has “virtually no chance of success in the Senate.”
Rep. [crscore]Louie Gohmert[/crscore] said it’s Democrats who are being partisan. “I would love to see the Democrat that still has that kind of righteous indignation to stand up and call it as it is, without regard to party.”
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