Republicans move to (finally) impeach IRS director

October 28, 2015
John Koskinen

John Koskinen

Honestly, I never thought they would really do it:

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) filed an impeachment resolution on Tuesday against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, the turnaround expert who was brought in to clean up the tax agency in 2013. Mr. Chaffetz was joined by 18 fellow Republicans.

The charges focus on the destruction of magnetic tapes that contained e-mails from Lois Lerner, the former agency executive whose office gave extra scrutiny to the groups.

“John Andrew Koskinen engaged in a pattern of deception that demonstrates his unfitness to serve as Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service,” the resolution says, focusing on Mr. Koskinen’s statements last year about the agency’s efforts to retrieve documents for congressional investigations. “Commissioner Koskinen made a series of false and misleading statements to Congress in contravention of his oath to tell the truth.”

“The IRS vigorously disputes the allegations in the resolution. We have fully cooperated with all of the investigations,” the agency said in a written statement.

Of course, the IRS also said there had been no high level coordinated efforts to harass conservative and libertarian groups applying for non-profit status in the run-up to the 2012 election, and then, when that was shown to be a lie, said they couldn’t find Lois Lerner’s emails. That was also shown to be a lie. During the whole of his time in office, Commissioner Koskinen has stonewalled, obstructed, and flat-out lied to the Congress, the elected representatives of his bosses: us. His arrogance in several hearings I’ve watched has just been astounding. If not impeachment, he certainly deserves a pie in the face.

Long-time readers of this blog (all two of you) will recall that I often called for the impeachment of former Attorney General Eric Holder and that I believe Barack Obama merits impeachment and removal from office. Partly because their malfeasance and incompetence in office (1) deserve it, but also to restore some respect for Congress’ role as the representatives of the people and the states. Congress has been so reluctant to impeach and remove officials who abuse their power that it has contributed to the decline of the legislature’s status as a co-equal branch and the rise of “Crown government.” Along with denying funds, impeachment is the only weapon Congress has to hold the Executive to account.

Make no mistake, however: as the article points out, removing even a minor wretch like Mr. Koskinen will be difficult. Other than judges, Congress has gone after Executive Branch officials only twice: Grant’s Secretary of War and President Clinton, himself. Removing Koskinen requires 67 senators voting to convict, which means several Democrats would have to turn against the Obama White House, which appointed him. Ain’t gonna happen.

However, putting this malicious bureaucrat on trial would be a small first step on the road toward restoring Congress’ authority by asserting its institutional and constitutional prerogatives. In other words, you abuse your power,  you get your power taken away from you.

By all rights, this should be the first of several.

Pour encourager les autres.

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Well, what do you know? Lois Lerner had a secret email account, too.

August 25, 2015
"The dog ate my Blackberry!"

“Toby Miles??”

Shades of former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” account and Hillary Clinton’s off-the-books (and unsecured!) email server.

Is there anyone in the federal government who isn’t conducting official business on unofficial, off-the-record accounts with fake names?

Lois Lerner had yet another personal email account used to conduct some IRS business, the tax agency confirmed in a new court filing late Monday that further complicates the administration’s efforts to be transparent about Ms. Lerner’s actions during the tea party targeting scandal.

The admission came in an open-records lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm that has sued to get a look at emails Ms. Lerner sent during the targeting.

IRS lawyer Geoffrey J. Klimas told the court that as the agency was putting together a set of documents to turn over to Judicial Watch, it realized Ms. Lerner had used yet another email account, in addition to her official one and another personal one already known to the agency.

“In addition to emails to or from an email account denominated ‘Lois G. Lerner‘ or ‘Lois Home,’ some emails responsive to Judicial Watch’s request may have been sent to or received from a personal email account denominated ‘Toby Miles,’” Mr. Klimas told Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who is hearing the case.

It is unclear who Toby Miles is, but Mr. Klimas said the IRS has concluded that was “a personal email account used by Lerner.”

In case you don’t recall, Lerner was at the center of a scandal in which the IRS stood accused of harassing conservative and libertarian “Tea Party” groups organized as 501(c) non-profit groups. First her official work emails couldn’t be found, then it was claimed her hard drive had (conveniently) crashed, then backup tapes were lost or overwritten — until the Inspector General found them after looking for all of five minutes. Oh, and Lerner took the 5th, even though she has nothing to hide. (According to her.)

Naturally, this will set off a new round of court fights and delays as Judicial Watch (which really should get a fruit basket from House Republicans for doing their job for them) seeks access to those emails. The results should be interesting. Sure, they may be wholly innocuous messages, but, then, in that case…

Why the fake name? (1)

via Conservative Intel

Footnote:
(1) Assuming it’s not in the Ashley Madison database, of course….


#IRS: Lois Lerner’s emails exist. Lying suckweasels shown to be liars.

August 26, 2014
"The dog ate my Blackberry!"

“The dog ate my Blackberry!”

Oh, this is just beautiful. After claiming the dog ate their homework Lois Lerner’s hard drive had crashed and then been destroyed, making her emails unrecoverable, DoJ lawyers now tell Judicial Watch, “Oh, hey! Whaddya know? We may actually those emails. But, they’re too hard to find. Trust us.”

Judicial Watch, a watchdog group which has been investigating the IRS scandal, has learned that Lois Lerner’s supposedly missing emails may still exist within a federal government back-up system.

After months of administration officials insisting that two years worth of Lerner’s emails were irretrievable following a computer crash, a Department of Justice attorney admitted to Judicial Watch Friday that the federal government backs up all their computer records in case of catastrophe.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified just a few months ago that Lerner’s emails were lost, while the IRS claimed it had gone to “unprecedented efforts” to retrieve the emails.

The news of the “lost” emails was met with wide mockery and disbelief in the press, with many suspecting that some back-up of the records must exist.

Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, told Fox News that the Department of Justice now claims it would be “too hard” to retrieve Lerner’s emails from the back-up system.

Here’s the interview with Fitton, who, I’d guess, had to calm himself down before going on air:

And now we have confirmation that, as everyone with more than half a brain suspected, the government had backups all along. I can only imagine what Chairman Issa of the Oversight committee said on hearing the news, but I suspect the more publicly repeatable words included “perjury.” IRS commissioner Koskinen swore up and down that they had done everything they could to retrieve those emails, but, well, gosh. These things happen.

And now they’re claiming the records would be too hard to find? In a backup system that’s supposed to keep government operations going in the event of a catastrophe? That’s an insult to our intelligence and another damnable lie. And I want someone to try that excuse when the IRS is doing the investigating. “Sorry, Mr. IRS agent, those records would be too much work to find.”

People at IRS and possibly DoJ need to do prison time over this.

PS: If you’re scratching your head wondering why this is important, Lerner’s emails may be crucial to establishing how and at whose direction the harassment of conservative and Tea Party 501(c) applicants began. The persecution of these groups prevented their participation in the 2012 election, thus affecting the constitutional rights of the applicants and, perhaps, materially affecting the election. When you add that to the utterly vile idea of politicizing the nation’s tax enforcement bureau… Yeah, this is important.

BTW: Breaking today at PJMedia, Bryan Preston reports that the IRS is now saying that Lerner’s Blackberry was destroyed, too, after it knew of her hard drive crash, and thus any emails it recorded are inaccessible, as well. These people have no shame. But they do evidently have a backup system…

RELATED: More from Walter Russell Mead — “The IRS scandal has arrived.”

 


#IRS: IT professionals skeptical of Lerner email loss story

June 27, 2014
"The new liberal tokerance"

“House special investigators in action”

And I say “skeptical” because, I’m sure, the real language the head of the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers used was not repeatable in polite company. IAITAM is an organization that issues certifications and sets standards for IT management, including the proper disposal of retired hard drives. This is what their president, Dr. Barbara Rembiesa, had to say:

“The notion that these emails just magically vanished makes no sense whatsoever.  That is not how IT asset management at major businesses and government institutions works in this country.  When the hard drive in question was destroyed, the IRS should have called in an accredited IT Asset Destruction (ITAD) professional or firm to complete that process, which requires extensive documentation, official signoffs, approvals, and signatures of completion.  If this was done, there would be records.  If this was not done, this is the smoking gun that proves the drive or drives were destroyed improperly – or not at all.”

Emphasis added. I think this not only calls for another round of grilling for IRS Comissioner Koskinen, but subpoenas for any and all people working in the IT office that serviced Lerner’s computer.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Really? Lois Lerner thought of investigating Senator Grassley (R-IA)??

June 25, 2014
No way!!

No way!!

Real smart. Let a United States Senator find out you were planning a fishing expedition into his finances? Try it, and just see how fast the hammer gets dropped on you once he’s in the majority, again:

New emails reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee in the IRS targeting investigation revealed something that might knock the probe up another notch: IRS manager Lois Lerner allegedly sought to have the circumstances surrounding a speaking invitation to Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, referred for IRS examination.

“We have seen a lot of unbelievable things in this investigation, but the fact that Lois Lerner attempted to initiate an apparently baseless IRS examination against a sitting Republican United States Senator is shocking,” said Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) in a written press release.

According to the Ways and Means Committee, and the email chain released today, Lerner and Sen. Grassley were invited to speak at the same event in Dec. of 2012, but their invitations got mixed up. When Lerner received Grassley’s invitation, she suggested to others in her office that the invitation should be referred for examination.

“Looks like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife,” Lerner said. “Perhaps we should refer to Exam?”

Lerner’s idea was dropped after another employee politely said (I’m paraphrasing) “Are you nuts??” Still this is another example of the arrogance that infects the bureaucracy, much of which seems to have forgotten who employs whom around here.

BTW, Grassley sits on the Finance, Budget, and Joint Taxation committees, all of which have jurisdiction over the IRS. He had no comment about this story, but I’m sure he will have plenty to say in early 2015.

RELATED: My blog-buddy is already on the case.


IRS scandal: forget the special counsel. Instead, impeach.

June 24, 2014
Johnson impeachment trial

Let the trials begin

The growing frustration with the various scandals of the Obama administration have lead to repeated calls from the Opposition for special prosecutors to investigate and, if warranted, to criminally prosecute violators, most recently in the IRS scandal. For example, there’s Bryan Preston of PJ Media:

Congressional hearings make for mediocre TV and a poor vehicle for investigating the targeting of conservatives by our own government. It will take a special prosecutor who will go below the level of IRS chief and get to the people who were around when Lerner’s emails were supposedly lost, and who will depose them, look through contracts, find the inconsistencies and build a case. All the rest is show.

I sympathize, but, as I replied to Preston, just how does one get Holder and Obama to appoint one? And, furthermore, what guarantees do we have that the appointee will be truly independent? I don’t think it’s likely that the Attorney General will appoint a modern-day Archibald Cox, who’d rather be fired than compromise his investigation, do you?

Senator Roberts of Kansas was also among those calling for an independent prosecutor appointed by Congress:

 “The Obama Administration’s Department of Justice won’t meaningfully pursue the IRS, but Kansans are demanding a full investigation, where ever it may lead, into how and why the IRS shut down the activities of the Administration’s opponents. At this point, only a Congressionally appointed and separately funded special counsel, with full subpoena power, can get to the bottom of this matter. Congress has longstanding and broad authority to both investigate allegations of wrongdoing within the federal government and to delegate its investigatory powers to other entities. It’s time to put this authority into action.

Roberts wants the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for “suppressing the First Amendment” rights of those targeted by the IRS, but, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy points out, there is a serious flaw in Roberts’ argument: Congress has all the authority to appoint an investigator and investigate all they want, but they have no constitutional authority to prosecute:

Congress can issue subpoenas for information in connection with its oversight function; it lacks any power to issue subpoenas in connection with what Senator Roberts says he is calling for: “the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for suppressing the First Amendment.” Congress is bereft of authority to enforce the penal laws, to conduct grand-jury proceedings, to issue indictments, to make arrests, and to subject offenders to criminal trials.

(…)

Senator Roberts is surely correct that Congress may appoint and fund its own special counsel. Indeed, it has done so many times: Committees conducting significant congressional investigations have frequently retained experienced former prosecutors to lead the hunt for evidence and the examination of witnesses. But a congressional special counsel is not, and may not be, an independent prosecutor. A congressional “special counsel” may only exercise Congress’s powers, not the president’s. The special counsel may conduct oversight; he or she may not prosecute.

Citing arguments ranging from recent Appeals Court rulings back to James Madison in Federalist 10, McCarthy reminds us that the Founders considered this separation of power, a division between the power to legislate and the power to prosecute, as essential to our liberty. Indeed, Madison saw their combination in one branch of government’s hands to be the very definition of tyranny (1).

But, if Congress can only investigate and shed light, but not prosecute, what then is to be done? What remedy is there when the Executive won’t fulfill its duties to enforce the laws and, if need be, prosecute?

McCarthy answers that the solution to this political problem is the political “weapon” the Constitution allows Congress — impeachment:

Congress has the power to impeach and remove from power high executive officials who have abused their powers. And while it appears that conventional felonies may have been committed in the IRS scandal, that is nearly beside the point, for two reasons.

First, “high crimes and misdemeanors” need not be indictable offenses. The term, borrowed from English law, refers instead to betrayals of the profound trust reposed in high government officials. Undermining the constitutional rights of the people and misleading Congress are among the most egregious betrayals executive-branch officials can commit. They clearly warrant impeachment and removal.

Second, with due respect to Senator Roberts and other Republicans who have emphasized the potential criminal liability of IRS and other executive-branch officials, they are barking up the wrong tree. When executive power is being abused, the public-interest imperative is to remove the power from the malevolent or incompetent officials. Whether they are also, at some point, privately prosecuted for their wrongdoing is of far less moment.

And I agree. Realistically, we will have to wait for a Republican White House in order to criminally prosecute law breakers in the IRS and other scandals. But the health of our political system and the Rule of Law requires the removal of corrupt, faithless, and incompetent political appointees now. Forget that the Senate has a Democratic majority lead by a petty tyrant: bring the first impeachment against Commissioner Koskinen and make the Democrats defend the IRS before the public.

We already have a House select committee investigating the Benghazi massacre. If John Boehner doesn’t mind a bit of advice, I’d suggest forming another for the IRS scandal and one for Fast and Furious, both with full subpoena powers and special counsel hired to lead the inquiries. They all should work through the summer and, when done, present their findings to the full House. Forget the Department of Justice; it can’t be trusted with Eric Holder in charge. Instead, the House should impeach whomever is found culpable by the investigations.

Short of removing the President, himself (2), it’s the only way (3) to rein in an imperial Executive Branch.

Footnote:
(1) And if you look at the Chief Executive’s usurpations of Congress legislative power to rewrite the laws at whim, you can see what Mr. Madison meant. Also, this is one reason we prohibit Bills of Attainder.
(2) McCarthy has written an excellent book, Faithless Execution, making the legal case for Barack Obama’s impeachment and removal from office. However, he also makes a strong argument that this simply will not be possible without a public political consensus for Obama’s removal existing, first. I agree with him and think that going after lower officials, instead, will be more fruitful.
(3) There is the “power of the purse,” but for various reasons that hasn’t worked in recent years.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#IRS had an external email archiving service from 2005 to 2011

June 22, 2014
"Obama foreign policy advisers"

“IRS records retention staff”

Well, la-dee-da. Isn’t this interesting?

The agency said that emails stored on dead drives were lost forever because its email backup tapes were recycled every six months, and employees were responsible for keeping their own long-term archives.

The IRS had a contract with email backup service vendor Sonasoft starting in 2005, according to FedSpending.org, which lists the contract as being for “automatic data processing services.” Sonasoft’s motto is “email archiving done right,” and the company lists the IRS as a customer.

And, as recently as 2009, Sonasoft was advertising its work for the IRS. That’s awfully close to the time frame of Lois Lerner’s (and others’) missing emails. But, in an update to the linked article, Peter Suderman points out that Sonasoft’s contracts with the government were small, in the very low five figures. Thus, they may well have not been paid to back up the specific accounts in question. (SEE UPDATE)

But… This leaves wide open the question of what other archiving services, if any, IRS may have hired during the time in question. (And not just IRS, but the departments where the recipients of her emails worked.) This would be a very good question to ask IRS Commissioner Koskinen under oath, though I wouldn’t rely on his answer. After all, no one believes him. Rather, this is a question that should be posed by the lead investigator for a Select Investigating Committee who’s already done his due diligence and knows the answer.

Just because I like to see lying bureaucrats squirm.

RELATED: Per Sharyl Attkisson, it’s not just the IRS possibly destroying records they’re legally obligated to retain. A federal judge has held the EPA in contempt and ordered it to pay legal fees for destroying records requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

UPDATE: Oh, this is special! Via Rick Moran, The Daily Caller reports that Sonasoft’s contract with the IRS was terminated weeks after Lerner’s computer crash:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) cancelled its longtime relationship with an email-storage contractor just weeks after ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s computer crashed and shortly before other IRS officials’ computers allegedly crashed.

The IRS signed a contract with Sonasoft, an email-archiving company based in San Jose, California, each year from 2005 to 2010. The company, which partners with Microsoft and counts The New York Times among its clients, claims in its company slogans that it provides “Email Archiving Done Right” and “Point-Click Recovery.” Sonasoft in 2009 tweeted, “If the IRS uses Sonasoft products to backup their servers why wouldn’t you choose them to protect your servers?”

Sonasoft was providing “automatic data processing” services for the IRS throughout the January 2009 to April 2011 period in which Lerner sent her missing emails.

But Sonasoft’s six-year business relationship with the IRS came to an abrupt end at the close of fiscal year 2011, as congressional investigators began looking into the IRS conservative targeting scandal and IRS employees’ computers started crashing left and right.

Read the whole thing. I’m sure the timing was just a coincidence, aren’t you?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)