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Impeachment of the IRS Commissioner

I have long believed that the House Republicans should be using their impeachment power against the IRS.  I thought that they should have seriously considered impeaching Lois Lerner (although I suppose there is question whether she was a constitutional officer).  I certainly believe that they should consider whether to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and other relevant IRS officials.  (Note: the House impeaches or accuses; the Senate tries the official and can convict with a two thirds majority.)

It is true that an impeachment of the IRS Commissioner will not directly affect the President or the White House.  But it is important to use the tools that the Congress has to police wrongdoing and impeachment is one of them.

Impeachment will punish the wrongdoing of officials in an entirely constitutional way.  The accused person will have the spotlight on them and their acts will be exposed to the public.  If they are removed from office, they will be in disgrace.  Moreover, the media will find it much harder to ignore the issue, both because of the unusualness of an impeachment and because of the drama that it establishes.  Impeachment will command the attention of the country in a way that simple oversight hearings do not.

Nor will the impeachment leave the White House unaffected.  Once it becomes clear that officials may be impeached, their will be greater reluctance on the part of officials to engage in wrongdoing.  Moreover, the impeachment may reveal information about wrongdoing by the White House.

An impeachment will provide the House with more power than simple oversight hearings.  There is a strong argument that executive privilege will either not be available or will be much less available against an impeachment inquiry.

It is true that while the House can impeach an official with a majority vote, a conviction and removal from office requires a two thirds vote of the Senate.  Thus, depending on the evidence against the official and the degree of politics at work in the Senate, it is possible that an official who should be removed would not be convicted in the Senate.  But that is not a serious problem in my view.

First, even if the official is acquitted, they will hardly get off scot-free.  Significant evidence will have been presented against them in the public arena, and one house will be have charged them.  The other house might have acquitted them, but it is likely a majority of the Senate would have voted for conviction and the remaining Senators would have voted for acquittal as a defense of their party’s administration.  This is hardly an exoneration.

Second, if the evidence is strong, these Democratic Senators may not feel free to vote for acquittal.  And that will send a strong message – that two thirds of the Senate, with members from both parties, found serious wrongdoing.

Reader Discussion

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on July 09, 2015 at 21:15:22 pm

Given that the Obama administration has refused to even charge Lois Lerner with contempt of congress, I think the congress should use its inherent power to punish for contempt by ordering the sergeant at arms to place Lois Lerner in jail. This would also be a constitutional way for congress to assert its powers and has been upheld by the Supreme Court in Jurney v. MacCracken, 294 U.S. 125 (1935). This is likely to actually work (as it only requires a majority in the house of representatives which is controlled by congress), unlike impeachment which is likely to fail to convict in the senate given it needs 2/3. Even if they only punish her by say a few days in jail (in the jail cell in the capitol building). Regardless impeachment doesn't matter much anymore, all that can do is remove her from office (but she has already retired), and revoke any benefits she has and prohibits her from holding office again (she isn't likely to hold any public position again). The only thing it could possibly take away would be her federal pension.

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Devin Watkins
on July 09, 2015 at 21:16:10 pm

controlled by republicans*

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Devin Watkins
on July 10, 2015 at 10:51:43 am

Glad to see you have a great interest in “impeachment”. I would like to see your commentary on “usurpation” by Supreme Court justices and federal justices in general. That is the direction I would hope the House of Representatives find imperative to the security of the Constitution and its enumerated limited powers of the three branches of government. The “rule of law” appears to be “ the rule of the Executive and Judicial branches” – not the Constitution.
Respectfully, John
(Facebook, author of The Tribute)

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John E. Jenkins
on July 10, 2015 at 13:47:10 pm

I almost feel like laughing. You must be kidding. The folks in the house in particular are not likely to do anything against the IRS. Consider the case of the Representative from Idaho in the early 90s. He wrote a book against the IRS. Nothing was done then. After he was no longer in the house, the IRS trumped a charge of lying on his taxes, took him to court, found him guilty, and sent him to prison fro a couple of years. Then they let him out without any explanation, and some time later picked him up at his church one Sunday morning, bound and shackled him, and shipped him in a bus for 18 hrs. to another prison without any food, water, or calls of nature. The media did not report on this, and the info. was leaked on the internet. I'll bet the representatives of the house were made aware of this, and their continued sucking on the public teats continues so long as they do what the IRS allows. You might want to look at the retirement of our judges and why they seldom, if ever, decide against the IRS. Beware the ides of April for your article..

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dr. james willingham
on July 24, 2015 at 10:59:31 am

[…] Liberty Law SiteImpeachment will punish the wrongdoing of officials in an entirely constitutional way. The accused person will have the spotlight on them and their acts will be exposed to the public. If they are removed from office, they will be in disgrace. Moreover, the media will find it much harder to ignore the issue, both because of the unusualness of an impeachment and because of the drama that it establishes. Impeachment will command the attention of the country in a way that simple oversight hearings do not.Nor will the impeachment leave the White House unaffected. Once it becomes clear that officials may be impeached, their will be greater reluctance on the part of officials to engage in wrongdoing. Moreover, the impeachment may reveal information about wrongdoing by the White House.An impeachment will provide the House with more power than simple oversight hearings. There is a strong argument that executive privilege will either not be available or will be much less available against an impeachment inquiry.Koskinen has evidently lied to Congress, by omission if nothing else, on multiple occasions. His IRS has demonstrably destroyed records under Congressional subpoena, a matter which could and should have been prosecuted criminally. He has stalled and stonewalled the Congressional investigations into conduct for which his predecessor was forced to resign. For all of these things, he should by rights be impeached and removed from office.But even if the House musters the courage to impeach, the chances the Senate will convict with a two-thirds majority are slim, and the impact of impeaching an official of a president in the final year of his term are minimal. At best, the spectacle will limit the ability of the IRS to influence the election. That may be worth it. […]

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Image of An argument for impeaching IRS Commissioner Koskinen
An argument for impeaching IRS Commissioner Koskinen

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