WASHINGTON – The frustration was written all over his face.
“I have no idea,” is how Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, responded to WND’s question: Why won’t GOP leadership support the attempt by conservative lawmakers to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen?
It’s an all-too-familiar script: conservative House Republicans battling not just Democrats, but their own party leadership. And conservatives speaking to the press on Capitol Hill were clearly exasperated.
“The American people get it,” Jordan said. “They are asking, ‘Why wasn’t this done a long time ago?’ The American people understand it’s a double standard, whether its (Hillary) Clinton or Koskinen.”
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., was blunt, answering WND’s question with a pair of his own questions: “Can the head of IRS lie and get away with it?” and, “Congress must decide, does it stand with IRS or with the American people?”
“This is what it comes down to: Does the House even matter? The IRS commissioner destroyed evidence and perjured himself. Does this diminish they IRS in the public eye? Well, its reputation couldn’t get much lower,” the congressman concluded.
“This is what frustrates folks back home,” lamented Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, who was just elected in July to replace retired House Speaker John Boehner.
Davidson mused that House leadership had discovered, “If you can be ignored, you will be – and it’s time we put an end to that.”
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said GOP leadership was “punting” because “they just don’t want to hold impeachment hearings.”
“It’s amazing that we’re not doing it,” he marveled.
House conservatives introduced an impeachment resolution on Tuesday because, they say, Koskinen blocked congressional efforts to investigate the IRS targeting of tea-party and other conservative groups. A vote in the House is set for Thursday.
Although dubbed a long shot by the establishment media, conservatives are dead serious about impeachment because, they say, the violations by the commissioner are so serious.
After speaking to the press, Jordan told WND, “Impeaching Koskinen is the right thing to do,” and he detailed exactly why.
“Under his watch, with congressional subpoenas and preservation orders in place, the IRS destroyed 422 back-up tapes containing potentially 24,000 Lois Lerner emails. On top of that, Koskinen kept Congress in the dark for months before disclosing the issue, made false statements under oath before Congress about the situation, and refused to correct the record after the truth came out,” detailed the congressman.
He added, “For his dereliction of duty and gross negligence, Congress should impeach him. If we don’t hold people like this accountable, then what are we here for?”
In responding to WND at Thursday’s monthly meeting with the press, called “Conversations with Conservatives,” House lawmakers time and again cited scholarly articles supporting impeachment written by columnist George Will and former federal prosecutor and National Review columnist Andrew McCarthy.
When WND asked McCarthy why GOP leaders were balking, he replied, “The problem is that many of them do not understand what an impeachable offense is and why the vitality of the impeachment remedy is essential to preserving our constitutional system.
“They are also not particularly interested in educating themselves,” he added. “In Washington, it is a commonplace to avoid knowledge. If you know both the circumstances and the range of your authority to deal with them, you are expected to take action – and taking action is accountable.
“Much easier to carp about how others – the Justice Department, the FBI – are not doing their jobs, and hope nobody notices, beneath the noise, that you have superior powers to act.”
Tuesday’s motion was a re-filing of something initially introduced in July called a “privileged resolution,” which would circumvent GOP leaders and force the House to vote on beginning impeachment proceedings without holding preliminary hearings. Back then, Politico reported GOP leaders “fear it will lower the standard for such drastic measures like impeachment in the future.”
WND asked McCarthy if he thought it would really lower the bar for impeachment.
“The IRS, the nation’s most unpopular agency, abused its awesome powers to harass and intimidate Americans for using their most precious constitutional rights, then lied to Congress and obstructed justice in covering it up,” he replied.
“How would acting on such heinous conduct ‘lower the bar’ for impeachable offenses? They are classic impeachable offenses,” marveled McCarthy.
On Tuesday, conservatives explained to WND they felt forced to file the privileged resolution because GOP leaders, including House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., had refused to allow hearings on whether to impeach Koskinen.
Conservatives described it as a Catch-22: GOP leadership complained the privileged resolution violated “regular order” (the usual procedures) but refused to allow hearings, which would be the way to preserve the regular order.
“They (GOP leadership) all say they’re against it (the resolution) because there hasn’t been due process. But that’s because the leader of the judiciary committee won’t hold hearings,” explained Labrador,
“Koskinen is asking for all due process rights, so let’s do that and hold full hearings,” the congressman added. But then, he reflected, “I expect we’re going to be told we need due process, then told we can’t have a hearing, which is not due process.”
These conservatives expressed wariness that, instead of a vote on the resolution on Thursday, there instead may be a procedural vote used to prevent House members from actually having to go on the record as having voted for or against impeachment of Koskinen.
They consider that a disturbing possibility because it would be, essentially, a vote of support for Koskinen. They would also consider it a further erosion of the status of Congress as a co-equal to the executive branch of government.
Labrador noted that witnesses in previous hearings, such as McCarthy and constitutional scholar and George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, had testified that Koskinen’s transgressions were serious enough to warrant impeachment. Turley, a Democrat, testified that the Obama administration was “effectively weaponizing the IRS.”
The congressman likened it to what he termed the misdeeds of former secretary of state and current Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton: Destroying evidence after it had been subpoenaed.
He also noted that in April a federal judge found the IRS was still targeting tea-party groups under Koskinen.
One of the many lawmakers who cited George Will’s op-ed published Friday in the Washington Post noted the novelty of the columnist siding with conservatives over the GOP establishment.
Will’s piece was titled “Congress should impeach the IRS commissioner – or risk becoming obsolete,” and made the case that GOP leaders “ardently” want to avoid an impeachment vote because they feel “the public does not care about John Koskinen’s many misdeeds.”
However, Will argued, Congress had already forfeited its power of the purse in allowing the Obama administration to continue to run up record budget deficits and to fund its own agenda priorities, leaving impeachment as the only functional deterrence for executive overreach.
He further observed that constitutional architect James Madison interpreted the “high crimes and misdemeanors” justifying impeachment to include “maladministration,” which, Will wrote, “surely encompasses perjury and obstruction of Congress.”
Will said the idea that an IRS commissioner is not a high enough official for impeachment ignores what Turley called “the realities of the modern regulatory state.” The columnist noted, “Commissioners have authority over 90,000 employees collecting $2.5 trillion in revenues annually.”
The columnist concluded, “Refusing to impeach Koskinen would continue the passivity by which members of Congress have become, in Turley’s words, ‘agents of their own obsolescence.'”
McCarthy called for the impeachment of “the officials who carried out the IRS abuse of American citizens” as far back as June 2014, scolding Republicans: “Impeach them now, worry about prosecuting them later … and please stop whining as if you are powerless to do anything.”