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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, November 13, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 918

IRS Logo 2Washington Post op-ed:  Skip the Investigations, Just Work to Win the White House, by Charles Krauthammer:

At a certain point you have to realize you can’t hit a fastball. House Republicans don’t quite get that they are hopeless at oversight hearings. They keep losing — and now the chairman of the House Oversight Committee has just introduced articles of impeachment against John Koskinen, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

I’m sympathetic to the GOP motive, given how the Obama IRS has consistently obstructed and misled Congress in the tax-exemption scandal. But impeachment is no ordinary move. No agency chief or Cabinet officer has been impeached since 1876. And even proponents admit there is no chance of Koskinen being removed from office, because the Senate will never convict.

Instead, says Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, the purpose is public education, “to demonstrate to the American people” that the IRS “will be held accountable” for violating the public trust.

I’m all for demonstrating malfeasance. But the GOP House has given a five-year display of its inability to successfully demonstrate anything. From Benghazi all the way back to Operation Fast and Furious, the impact of its hearings on public perception has been either zero or negative.

Take the IRS case. The Oversight Committee, led at the time by Darrell Issa, blew it, allowing the IRS’ Lois Lerner to deliver a statement proclaiming innocence and then claiming Fifth Amendment protection from having to answer any questions. Committee member Trey Gowdy nearly flew out of his seat to point out that she had just forfeited her immunity.

Too late. She got away with it. That failure is what brings us to impeachment today. But impeachment was never intended to be a mulligan. ...

In each of these cases [Benghazi, Planned Parenthood, Republicans had the facts and the argument. And yet in every one they failed. What makes them think that they will fare any better in the next iteration, the impeachment of a minor official in an expiring administration?

Chaffetz says that the purpose is to rein in the IRS. I’m all for that. You know how you do it? Win the presidency, appoint honest new IRS leadership and get your own Justice Department to do a real investigation.

It’s a harder road to accountability. But it gets you to where you want to go.

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Comments

Krauthammer argues that “House Republicans don’t quite get that they are hopeless at oversight hearings. They keep losing —.” That of course, is true. Issa, Chaffetz, et al. are pathetic committee chairs, even worse questioners, and are vastly overmatched by Cummings. But what Krauthammer really doesn’t understand is that oversight hearings are NOT supposed to be adversary proceedings. There aren’t supposed to be winners and losers; that is neither the purpose nor procedural structure of oversight. Put another way, oversight is supervision, which does not extend to prosecution. (And while we’re at it, if any of these hearings were serious, the questioning would be conducted by committee counsel, not members. Anyone remember Sam Dash?)

The IRS oversight hearings provide the best example. If the House Oversight Committee were truely interesting in proper oversight, on the day after the DOJ determined not to file criminal charges, the oversight committee would have voted immunity for LLerner and issued a new subpoena for her appearance, along with her personal files, emails, and her little dog Toby. That would have been the surest way to obtain the remaining information necessary to conduct oversight and get to the last detail about the targeting incidents.

Don’t hold your breath Charles.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Nov 13, 2015 6:58:30 AM

Krauthammer is wrong. Winning the WH will not destroy this institution the way it needs to be destroyed. But it was nice for him to concede.

Posted by: DJ | Nov 13, 2015 8:47:59 AM

To give up now is to allow the IRS's politicalization to remain intact -- so that the Left (and perhaps even the Right) will use it as a tool to discriminate against Americans in the future based solely on their political ideology.

Posted by: Bittman | Nov 13, 2015 9:41:29 AM

"Take the IRS case. The Oversight Committee, led at the time by Darrell Issa, blew it, allowing the IRS’ Lois Lerner to deliver a statement proclaiming innocence and then claiming Fifth Amendment protection from having to answer any questions. Committee member Trey Gowdy nearly flew out of his seat to point out that she had just forfeited her immunity."

She then later took part in the DOJ investigation. Not sure how someone can plead the 5th that selectively.

Posted by: wodun | Nov 13, 2015 12:23:38 PM

Mr. wodun: Former U.S. Attorney Ron Machen explained how LLerner could invoke the 5th "selectively" in his detailed letter declining prosecution. Maybe you should read it.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Nov 14, 2015 8:17:21 PM