Repub­li­cans de­rail last chance to oust IRS chief

Im­peach­ment ef­fort ends when Con­gress ad­journs

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Repub­li­can lead­ers man­aged to de­rail im­peach­ment of IRS Com­mis­sioner John Kosk­i­nen on Tues­day, forc­ing the de­bate back to a com­mit­tee for more study, where it will die when Con­gress ad­journs at the end of this year.

It was a quiet end to a saga that had be­dev­iled GOP lead­ers for more than a year, dat­ing back to rev­e­la­tions that Mr. Kosk­i­nen mis­led a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion look­ing into the tea party-tar­get­ing scan­dal and for­mer IRS se­nior ex­ec­u­tive Lois G. Lerner’s lost emails. Con­ser­va­tives had been ag­i­tat­ing for im­peach­ment,

say­ing Mr. Kosk­i­nen should be pun­ished for de­fy­ing a subpoena and pro­vid­ing in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion.

Some Repub­li­cans sought a lesser penalty, such as cen­sure, while Democrats said the en­tire im­peach­ment drive was mis­di­rected. Those two sides joined forces Tues­day in a 342-72 vote that sent the de­bate back to the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

“Mem­bers have dif­fer­ent opin­ions about what to do,” said Rep. Bob Good­latte, chair­man of the com­mit­tee, as he asked law­mak­ers to give him a chance to sort things out.

But with law­mak­ers look­ing to clear out of town this week, the move es­sen­tially kills the im­peach­ment drive in this Con­gress.

Mr. Kosk­i­nen’s term runs through Novem­ber, mean­ing that, un­like other po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees, he will re­main even af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama leaves of­fice Jan. 20.

Whether con­ser­va­tives try again early next year, amid a se­ries of new fights over Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s agenda, re­mains to be seen — but the im­peach­ment ef­fort’s lead­ers were dis­heart­ened by the vote.

“I am dis­ap­pointed,” said Rep. Jim Jor­dan, Ohio Repub­li­can. “We just re­ferred the res­o­lu­tion to the com­mit­tee, where it has been for 18 months, so that is won­der­ful.”

The tea party-tar­get­ing took place be­fore Mr. Kosk­i­nen’s ten­ure, and he was brought in to clean up the agency af­ter it ad­mit­ted to the wrong­ful prac­tice.

How­ever, dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the tar­get­ing, Con­gress dis­cov­ered that emails from Ms. Lerner, the key fig­ure in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, had gone miss­ing. Hun­dreds of backup tapes con­tain­ing some of the mes­sages were deleted even though they were sub­ject to a preser­va­tion or­der and subpoena from Con­gress.

De­spite that, Mr. Kosk­i­nen as­sured law­mak­ers that all of her mes­sages were be­ing saved and pro­duced.

At an im­peach­ment hear­ing ear­lier this year, Mr. Kosk­i­nen pleaded for his job, in­sist­ing at a hear­ing that the at­tacks on him were “im­proper.”

He ad­mit­ted that he did give in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion to Con­gress in the Lerner in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but said it was in­ad­ver­tent and said he’d helped the agency clean up its act in the wake of the tea party scan­dal.

The com­mis­sioner also warned that the fate of the civil ser­vice was rid­ing on the out­come of his case, say­ing that if he, a vet­eran of sev­eral govern­ment jobs, was taken down, others would be dis­cour­aged from join­ing the fed­eral work­force.

Democrats said the ac­cu­sa­tions against Mr. Kosk­i­nen were mis­guided, and said he was cleared by the IRS’ in­ter­nal au­di­tor, In­spec­tor Gen­eral J. Rus­sell Ge­orge, the Repub­li­can ap­pointee who first ex­posed the tea party tar­get­ing.

Mr. Ge­orge con­cluded that the dele­tion of the backup tapes was done by low-level em­ploy­ees at a com­puter fa­cil­ity in West Vir­ginia, and his au­di­tors found no ev­i­dence that any­one di­rected the era­sure, nor that they in­tended to in­ter­fere with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“In or­der to vote in fa­vor of this res­o­lu­tion to­day, you have to be­lieve that the Repub­li­can in­spec­tor gen­eral of the IRS is es­sen­tially ly­ing,” said Rep. Eli­jah E. Cummings, Mary­land Demo­crat.

Im­peach­ment is the process of bring­ing charges against an ex­ec­u­tive branch of­fi­cial, and it takes a ma­jor­ity vote in the House. If some­one is im­peached, the Se­nate then holds a trial in which it takes a two-thirds vote to re­move the of­fi­cial from of­fice.

Rep. Ger­ald E. Connolly, Vir­ginia Demo­crat, said even though Repub­li­cans de­cided against im­peach­ment, Mr. Kosk­i­nen’s rep­u­ta­tion had been ruined.

“No mat­ter what hap­pens here, they got their pound of flesh, be­cause when his grand­kids Google Grandpa’s name, they are go­ing to see the words ‘high crimes and mis­de­meanors and im­peach­ment,’ as if Grandpa did some­thing wrong. When in fact Grandpa did noth­ing wrong.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

De­spite a long­time cru­sade to pun­ish IRS Com­mis­sioner John Kosk­i­nen in the tea party-tar­get­ing scan­dal, Repub­li­cans will have to wait un­til 2017 to try yet again.

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