TaxProf Blog

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1235

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed: A Dangerous Rush to Impeach John Koskinen, by John Conyers (D-MI; Ranking Member, House Judiciary Committee):

The power of impeachment is a responsibility entrusted to the House of Representatives by the Constitution and to the House Judiciary Committee by our peers. I take this charge very seriously—and, for the most part, so do my colleagues in the majority.

I have served on the House Judiciary Committee long enough now to see impeachment done right and to see impeachment done wrong. I have participated in six of the 19 impeachments approved by the House since its inception. I voted in favor of five of them. In the early 1970s I helped to draft articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. I joined with 20 Democrats and six Republicans to send three of those articles to the House floor.

But I have never seen anything quite like the obsession of a few House members determined to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen—without much evidence to back their claims, without an independent investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, and without even basic due process for the accused. ...

In the past few days, the actions of a small group of conservative House members threaten to break from this precedent and to lead us down a dangerous path. ...

On the merits, Mr. Koskinen’s critics have simply failed to make their case. They have been unable to produce evidence that the commissioner acted in bad faith at any point in his tenure. The Senate Finance Committee, the Justice Department and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have all concluded that there is “no evidence” of intentional misconduct of any kind.

But even if there were some evidence of Mr. Koskinen’s wrongdoing, the push to impeach him without due process in the House Judiciary Committee is dangerously misguided. Never, in the history of this body, have we impeached a government official without first proving he has acted in deliberate bad faith. ...

If the commissioner’s critics have their way, I fear we will have a new rule going forward: The House may impeach any government official, for any reason, without supplying evidence of deliberate wrongdoing, without an independent investigation, and without regard to basic fairness toward the accused.

Forcing a vote on impeachment in this manner will certainly not result in the removal of Commissioner Koskinen. Even if his critics succeed in the House, Senators of both parties have already stated their intent to bury the matter. So for all their efforts they will have profited nothing. And in the process they will have turned impeachment from a constitutional check of last resort into a tool of political convenience.

Washington Post op-ed:  Republicans’ Kangaroo Court, by Dana Milbank:

Impeachment is among the most severe and solemn powers Congress has, right up there with declaring war. Not since 1876 has an executive-branch appointee been impeached, and not in the history of the republic has Congress impeached an executive-branch official below the Cabinet level.

Now, Republicans in Congress would change that. On Wednesday, they wheeled out the sacred tool of impeachment — weeks before an election — for the purpose of smearing an honorable public servant, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, in service of a lie. ...

There are just a few wee problems with the Republicans’ logic. The targeting of conservative groups ended in 2013. The Treasury Department’s inspector general, originally a Republican appointee, reported no evidence of political motivation in the targeting. The Justice Department, too, found “no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives” and “no evidence that any official attempted to obstruct justice.” The official responsible for the targeting resigned before Koskinen came to the IRS at the end of 2013. And the same IG said last year that “no evidence was uncovered that any IRS employees had been directed to destroy or hide information from Congress, the DOJ, or [the IG].”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, eager to avoid the spectacle of the House voting to impeach an innocent man based on false charges without a proper hearing, got impeachment advocates to settle for Wednesday’s hearing in which Koskinen testified before the House Judiciary Committee. But that hardly improved matters: To say this impeachment inquiry is a kangaroo court would be an insult to marsupials. ...

There’s no dispute that Koskinen misinformed lawmakers in 2014 when he said that all evidence had been preserved relevant to the targeting. In fact, IRS workers a few months earlier had destroyed backup tapes that contained relevant emails. Koskinen says he didn’t know that at the time. The IG spent a year investigating the matter and attributed the erasure to bureaucratic errors, finding “no evidence that the IRS and its employees purposely erased the tapes in order to conceal responsive e-mails from the Congress.”

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/09/the-irs-scandal-day-1235.html

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Comments

I'll paraphrase the conclusion of Mr. Milbank's editorial:

"There should be no consequences if IRS officials make false statements to Congress, destroy subpoenaed evidence after it's been subpoenaed, and violate the Federal Records Act and circumvent the Freedom of Information Act, all while under Congressional investigation for malfeasance."

He probably learned this kind of deference to government excuses back in journalism school...

Posted by: MM | Sep 25, 2016 10:28:31 AM

In the early 1970s I helped to draft articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon.

Which makes his current participation in actions that have far surpassed those of Nixon rather hypocritical.

On the merits, Mr. Koskinen’s critics have simply failed to make their case. They have been unable to produce evidence that the commissioner acted in bad faith at any point in his tenure.

The evidence was destroyed and Koskinen perjured himself before congress when testifying.

But even if there were some evidence of Mr. Koskinen’s wrongdoing, the push to impeach him without due process

Impeachment is due process.

Forcing a vote on impeachment in this manner will certainly not result in the removal of Commissioner Koskinen.

Yes, we know the administration and their allies in congress are corrupt.

Posted by: wodun | Sep 25, 2016 3:50:38 PM

I the Judiciary Committee a court of law? Is Mr. Conyers a judicial appointee?

Does impeachment even require due process, since it is by definition a political act?

And if the Department of Justice, which was involved in the IRS targeting of conservative groups early on, won't do its job, is that not a dereliction of due process?

Posted by: MM | Sep 25, 2016 8:07:24 PM