Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

With IRS impeachment, 'peak madness' is redefined again


Ah hail.

Just when you think that House Republicans have finally attained peak madness, something like this up and happens:

"WASHINGTON—Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and 18 members of the Committee introduced a resolution to begin proceedings in the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen."

Chaffetz -- last seen making a fool of himself trying to humiliate Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards in congressional hearings -- alleges that Koskinen destroyed evidence, obstructed justice and lied to Congress regarding the activities of IRS official Lois Lerner.¹ The filing of impeachment documents comes just four days after the Justice Department cleared Lerner and everyone else at the IRS of charges that they had injected politics into the agency's handling of applications for non-profit status. It reported finding no evidence whatsoever that such a thing had occurred.

" ... no IRS employee we interviewed, from those directly involved in decision-making to those who were primarily witnesses to the behavior of others, reported having any information suggesting that any action by any person in the IRS was done for the purpose of harming or harassing applicants affiliated with the Tea Party or similar groups. These witness accounts are fully supported by contemporaneous internal IRS documents, which do not suggest that there were a partisan political motive for any of the decisions made during the handling of the applications."

As I mentioned earlier, note the categorical, unequivocal nature of that statement.  Chaffetz can discredit the entire Justice investigation by producing a single IRS employee who did suggest that partisan politics were involved. Just one. He has none. He has no evidence whatseover.

And remember, all of the 100 or more people interviewed by the FBI were subject to dismissal and prosecution if they misled investigators, and several told the FBI that they considered themselves conservative or Republican. Yet none "witnessed, alleged or suspected that Ms. Lerner acted with a political, discriminatory, corrupt or other inappropriate purpose."

None.

The two-year Justice investigation also looked into the specific charges of destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice, etc., that Chaffetz levels against Koskinen in the impeachment documents. Its findings in that regard were equally stark and equally dismissive:

"We also carefully considered whether any IRS official attempted to obstruct justice with respect to their reporting function to Congress, the collection and production of documents demanded by the (Justice) Department and Congress ... we uncovered no evidence of such an intent by any official involved in the handling of the tax-exempt applications or the IRS' response to investigations of its conduct."

Does that sound like grounds for impeachment to you? Me neither. But in the wack-a-doodle world in which congressional Republicans reside, the complete absence of evidence is itself overwhelming and convincing evidence of guilt. They want it to be so, therefore it is so.

If only reality were so malleable for the rest of us.

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¹ Georgia congressmen Jody Hice and Buddy Carter are among the co-sponsors of the impeachment demand.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.