George W. Bush's former chief ethics lawyer is slamming congressional Republicans for trying to “intimidate” the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Richard Painter, who is now a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said the House should not pass a resolution to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the measure last week on a party-line vote.
“This is essentially a dispute between the IRS and Members of Congress about the 501c4 organizations that further the objectives of political campaigns, including campaigns of Members of Congress,” Painter said in a letter to Oversight Committee members.
“The IRS is charged with determining whether the activities of these organizations comply with the Internal Revenue Code and it is not proper for Congress to seek to intimidate the IRS in the discharge of its duties,” he added.
Republican lawmakers have accused Koskinen of not complying with a subpoena and lying under oath during a House investigation into findings that the IRS had subjected conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status to extra scrutiny.
Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzCongress's latest hacking investigation should model its most recent Fox News Audio expands stable of podcasts by adding five new shows The myth of the conservative bestseller MORE (R-Utah) has called censure a “first step” to impeachment. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold its second hearing to consider potentially impeaching Koskinen.
The resolution urges Koskinen to resign or be removed by the president. It also recommends that Koskinen be required to give up his federal pension and other benefits.
Painter said the resolution would not require Koskinen to forfeit his pension. He added that if the measure was passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by the president, it would be an unconstitutional “Bill of Attainder.” This type of bill is a measure that punishes a specific person without a trial.
Painter called the resolution “a dangerous overreaching on the part of the legislature of the very sort that our founding fathers believed to be an anathema to a representative democracy.”
A spokeswoman for Chaffetz did not reply to a request for comment about the letter.
The letter was made public Tuesday by the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). Cummings also released several other letters from legal experts who stated the resolution would not mandate that Koskinen forfeit his pension, and that such a forfeiture appears to be unconstitutional.
Cummings also released a document describing Democrats’ views on the censure resolution.
“The truth is that this censure resolution is political theater, and the House of Representatives should not be wasting another second on it when there are so many more important issues we need to address,” Cummings said in a statement.