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 TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test 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 GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlattePress: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself USCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids 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 LeeDemocratic attorneys criticize House Judiciary Democrats' questioning of Barr Steyer endorses reparations bill, commits to working with Jackson Lee Democrats set to hold out for big police reform 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 ClintonTrump touts economic agenda in battleground Ohio The Memo: Campaigns gird for rush of early voting Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat 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.