For those who've been frustrated that the IRS refuses to come clean and hand over documents and emails demanded by Congress, George Will has a column today proposing a solution: impeach the head of the IRS.
Republicans in Congress have made little headway in looking into the targeting of tea party groups under the aegis of former official Lois Lerner. Lerner's sitting on tax exempt applications from tea party organizations may have had an effect on the 2012 presidential election.
Lerner took the Fifth when called before Congress and her boss, John Koskinen, has also been less than cooperative. The whole affair contributed to a (true) notion that federal bureaucrats feel they can do whatever they damned well please, and we have no recourse.
As the IRS coverup of its and her malfeasance continues, the Republicans’ new House leaders should exercise this constitutional power: “The House . . . shall have the sole power of impeachment.” The current IRS director, John Koskinen, has earned this attention.
The Constitution’s framers, knowing that executive officers might not monitor themselves, provided the impeachment recourse to bolster the separation of powers.
Federal officials can be impeached for dereliction of duty (as in Koskinen’s failure to disclose the disappearance of e-mails germane to a congressional investigation); for failure to comply (as in Koskinen’s noncompliance with a preservation order pertaining to an investigation); and for breach of trust (as in Koskinen’s refusal to testify accurately and keep promises made to Congress).
. . .
After Koskinen complained about the high cost in time and money involved in the search, employees at a West Virginia data center told a Treasury Department official that no one asked for backup tapes of Lerner’s e-mails. Subpoenaed documents, including 422 tapes potentially containing 24,000 Lerner e-mails, were destroyed. For four months, Koskinen kept from Congress information about Lerner’s elusive e-mails. He testified under oath that he had “confirmed” that none of the tapes could be recovered.
Lerner conducted government business using private e-mail, and when she was told that the IRS’s instant messaging system was not archived, she replied: “Perfect.” Koskinen’s obfuscating testimonies have impeded investigation of unsavory practices, including the IRS’s sharing, potentially in violation of tax privacy laws, up to 1.25 million pages of confidential tax documents. Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, which has forced the IRS to disgorge documents, says some “prove that the agency used donor lists to audit supporters of organizations engaged in First Amendment-protected lawful political speech.”
If the House were to vote to impeach Koskinen, the Senate trial would not produce the two-thirds vote needed for a verdict of impeachment (as Will notes, the Democrats, who benefited from the tea party targetting, are "not ingrates").
But it would be a bad experience for Mr. Koskinen and we'd likely get some more details about how Lerner and the IRS operated.
If it was awful enough, it might serve as a warning to other haughty bureaucrats who believe they can get by with anything.