Jason Chaffetz wants to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Orrin Hatch doesn’t want him to. Chaffetz is in the right this time.
Koskinen is not the central figure in the IRS scandal, which found the federal tax agency being used to harass and bully conservative organizations in the run-up to the 2012 election. But he is a culpable figure. Specifically, it was under his watch that hundreds of backup tapes containing tens of thousands of e-mails — e-mails that were under congressional subpoena — were illegally destroyed, inhibiting investigation into the agency’s wrongdoing.
The intentional destruction of evidence under subpoena is a crime, and a serious one. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has voted 23 =–15 for a bill that would officially censure Koskinen, who was IRS commissioner when that evidence was illegally destroyed, and demand his resignation or removal, as well as the forfeiture of his pension. Representative Chaffetz has made it clear that if removing Koskinen requires impeaching him, then that is what Republicans will pursue. Indeed, the House Judiciary Committee already is considering impeachment.
We would do well to remember just how outrageous the IRS’s actions in this matter were. Conservative organizations, particularly those with tea-party leanings, were singled out by the IRS and subjected to an extraordinary degree of scrutiny on everything from the political ambitions of their donors (and their donors’ family members) to — hard as it is to believe — the contents of their prayers. IRS officials misled and stonewalled Congress and federal investigators. This harassment happened after Democratic grandees including Chuck Schumer and Max Baucus demanded that the IRS investigate tea-party organizations and other entities on the Democrats’ enemies list. It was a pure political witch hunt and a gross, criminal misuse of one of the federal government’s most fearsome agencies.