Republican leaders derail last chance to impeach IRS chief
Republican leaders managed to derail impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on last 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 partytargeting scandal and former IRS senior executive Lois G. Lerner’s lost emails. 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.”
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.