IRS chief warns against abrupt impeachment vote

IRS chief warns against abrupt impeachment vote
© Greg Nash

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is arguing that he should get a chance to respond to the allegations against him before the House takes any further action on resolutions to impeach or censure him.

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"Denying Commissioner Koskinen a full opportunity to examine the evidence against him and be heard before a House vote would leave the Members of the House without information about the merits and consequences of these measures, and would violate the principles of due process that are enshrined in our Constitution and have long been honored by you and your predecessors," Koskinen's lawyers said in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteImmigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute MORE (R-Va.) and ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.).

In recent months, the Judiciary Committee has held two hearings as part of an investigation into Koskinen's alleged misconduct. A 2013 inspector general report found that the IRS has subjected conservatives groups' applications for tax-exempt status to extra scrutiny.  

Republican lawmakers who testified at one of the hearings said that Koskinen made false statements under oath and did not comply with a subpoena.

Koskinen was invited to the first hearing, but he declined to attend because he said he did not have enough time to prepare. While Koskinen submitted written testimony refuting the allegations against him, the Judiciary Committee did not enter the testimony into the record.

The Judiciary Committee is still considering whether Congress should take any additional action. Meanwhile, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month approved a resolution to censure Koskinen.

Koskinen's lawyers criticized the Oversight Committee for approving the resolution without giving him a chance to respond to the charges or see secret interview transcripts that lawmakers believe support their case. The lawyers believe that the transcripts may actually help Koskinen and said that they hoped the Judiciary Committee would not allow the Oversight Committee markup to displace its role in the process.

Koskinen's lawyers also said they were "particularly troubled by press reports suggesting that some Members of the House may seek to deprive the Committee of its jurisdiction and Commissioner Koskinen of a fair process by bringing the impeachment proposal directly to the House floor as a privileged resolution." 

In modern times, the Judiciary Committee has allowed the accused to present witnesses and be represented by lawyers.

"Abandoning these practices to rush an impeachment vote based on a thin, one-sided record would represent a sharp departure from the House’s traditions and a rejection of constitutional principles and the dignity the House has sought to uphold under its current leadership," the letter said.

"The resolutions contain clear errors of fact, misleading statements, and baseless conclusions," the letter said.

Lawyers said that the "resolutions contain clear errors of fact, misleading statements, and baseless conclusions" and that Koskinen hopes to correct the record and prove he did not intentionally make false statements.

"We would welcome the opportunity to provide you with evidence for your review and to identify witnesses whose testimony would directly contradict the resolutions’ factual assertions and analyze the constitutional questions they raise," the letter reads.

They added that Koskinen "would also be personally available to express his regret for past statements that were inadvertently incorrect or misunderstood and to explain his actions to address errors and misunderstandings during subsequent proceedings." 

House leadership is not planning to hold a floor vote on impeachment or censure this week, the last week the House is in session before the summer recess.

"The position of our leadership is this isn't the time to go into gun issues and censuring people at a time when our country is so divided and so much is going on in Dallas and everywhere else," a GOP lawmaker close to leadership said.

While a lawmaker could force a floor vote on impeachment, it may be difficult for a resolution on the topic to pass. The House last week rejected a measure to cut Koskinen's salary to $0 through the presidential inauguration. Several of the Republican votes against the measure came from members of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

An aide to the Oversight Committee said that the committee's chairman, Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzHouse Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke GOP senators decline to criticize Acosta after new Epstein charges MORE (R-Utah), does not intend to file a motion. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters Tuesday that he is not offering a motion this summer but didn't say anything about whether a close ally would do so.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on Monday said he backs impeachment and is looking at the best way to proceed.

Scott Wong contributed