Dems hijack IRS hearing to ask about Trump’s taxes

Dems hijack IRS hearing to ask about Trump’s taxes
© Greg Nash

Democrats are using a House hearing on whether IRS Commissioner John Koskinen should be impeached to raise questions about Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE’s taxes.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) declared the hearing “an obvious sham” before asking Koskinen about the Republican presidential nominee's tax returns, which he has said he will not release publicly because he is under a federal audit.

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“Is there anything that would prohibit someone from releasing their tax returns, if they want to, because they're under audit?” Nadler said, without mentioning Trump by name.

“No,” Koskinen responded. 

“Can an individual use other people's money run through a charitable foundation to enrich themselves or satisfy his personal debts or obligations?” Nadler asked.

Koskinen answered that tax-exempt organizations cannot use their funds to benefit their own members.

Nadler also made reference to Trump spending $12,000 of his foundation's money to buy a football helmet signed by Tim Tebow, $20,000 for a 6-foot portrait of himself, $100,000 to cover a legal settlement and $158,000 to settle a dispute with a charity golf tournament participant.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Warrantless wiretapping reform legislation circulates on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Va.) objected to the question, saying it was outside the scope of the hearing. 

“Additionally, it's outside the scope and expertise of the witness,” Goodlatte stated. 

Koskinen declined to comment on the specific case but said nonprofit funds should not be used to benefit personal contributors.

Nadler then asked that if such a case was brought before the IRS and it failed to investigate, would it be an “impeachable” offense for the commissioner. 

Koskinen said IRS commissioners don't personally make such decisions but that there is a detailed process to examine such cases.

Moments later, another Democrat, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), asked the IRS commissioner whether an audit could be suspended during a presidential campaign. 

Koskinen said commissioners don't have authority over specific audits.

Lofgren also asked whether an elected official could be charged with bribery or treason for accepting money from a foreign country — “say, Russia” — and then enacting favorable policies toward that nation. 

Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson-LeeAnother Democrat takes a knee on House floor to support NFL protests Black lawmaker kneels on House floor in solidarity with athletes House Judiciary Dems want panel to review gun silencer bill MORE (D-Texas) also asked whether it was appropriate for a foundation to give political donations, alluding to a $25,000 donation Trump's namesake charity gave to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Trump paid a $2,500 fine for the donation.

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) acknowledged the Trump questions while taking a shot at Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE when it was his turn to speak.

“I'll refrain from asking about large nonprofits that might have taken and been influenced by foreign government contributions,” Issa said.

“That would be too sensitive to Mrs. Clinton."

Koskinen defended himself against calls for his impeachment.

The IRS chief acknowledged he had made false statements to Congress while testifying about his agency's scrutiny of conservative groups, but he said it would be “improper” for lawmakers to impeach him. He added that it would slow IRS activities.