Chaffetz Introduces Impeachment Resolution of IRS Commissioner Koskinen

This past Friday the US Department of Justice announced that there would be no criminal prosecution of Lois Lerner related to the IRS scandal. I certainly wasn’t surprised. If you don’t remember, the Department of Justice won my Tax Offender of the Year award back in 2013 because the DOJ didn’t really investigate the scandal. I still don’t think that’s occurred. While it is theoretically possible that the IRS scandal is all due to an extraordinary amount of coincidences, it’s far more likely that one individual ordered it.

That brings us to today’s news. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) today filed an impeachment resolution against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Mr. Chaffetz is the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He accuses Commissioner Koskinen of violating the public trust.

He failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch, and the public was consistently misled. Impeachment is the appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and to protect the institutional interests of Congress. This action will demonstrate to the American people that the IRS is under repair, and signal that Executive Branch officials who violate the public trust will be held accountable.

Commissioner Koskinen is accused of:

  • Failed to comply with a subpoena resulting in destruction of key evidenceCommissioner Koskinen failed to locate and preserve IRS records in accordance with a congressional subpoena and an internal preservation order.  The IRS erased 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 of Lois Lerner’s emails – key pieces of evidence that were destroyed on Koskinen’s watch. 
  • Failed to testify truthfully and provided false and misleading information.  Commissioner Koskinen testified the IRS turned over all emails relevant to the congressional investigation, including all of Ms. Lerner’s emails.  When the agency determined Ms. Lerner’s emails were missing, Commissioner Koskinen testified the emails were unrecoverable.  These statements were false.
  • Failed to notify Congress that key evidence was missing.  The IRS knew Lois Lerner’s emails were missing in February 2014.  In fact, they were not missing; the IRS destroyed the emails on March 4, 2014.  The IRS did not notify Congress the emails were missing until June 2014 – four months later, and well after the White House and the Treasury Department were notified.   

The IRS, of course, disputes the allegations in the resolution and believes they have fully cooperated with all of the investigations.

The reality is that Commissioner Koskinen may be impeached by the House of Representatives, but it is very unlikely he’ll be convicted by the US Senate. It is highly doubtful that Democrats will vote to impeach Mr. Koskinen.

My view of this is simple: Mr. Koskinen has become a mouthpiece of the Administration rather than an independent head of the IRS. New leadership and a resolution of the IRS scandal is needed before the people regain full confidence in the IRS. Mr. Koskinen has failed in that task. The IRS’s budget does need to be increased, but that’s not happening until Mr. Koskinen leaves the agency (and the scandal is resolved). The Wall Street Journal’s conclusion on the impeachment mirrors my thoughts:

Yet the exercise will have the salutary effect of reminding executive-branch officials that they are not a government unto themselves. The U.S. Attorney has refused to honor Congress’s contempt charge against Ms. Lerner for refusing to testify, the Justice Department has closed its investigations into IRS targeting without prosecutions, and the press corps winks at abuses of power when conservatives are the targets. With an executive who refuses to honor the normal separation of powers, Congress is obliged to use its authority to hold government accountable.

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