Today Americans see two sets of rules: one for the powerful and politically connected and another for ordinary Americans. They view the system as rigged — and they’re not wrong.
There’s a roster of Obama administration officials that have abused their offices and not been held accountable.
Former Director of the Exempt Organizations unit of the IRS Lois Lerner engaged in systematic targeting of conservative individuals and organizations for their political views. When it came to light, she first lied when she falsely blamed agents in Cincinnati. She then refused to answer questions in a Congressional hearing. And as a result, she was held in contempt of Congress.
Although held in contempt by the House of Representatives, no grand jury was ever convened and no charges were filed by the Department of Justice. Lois Lerner was able to retire quietly with full government benefits despite having abused Americans’ most fundamental liberties.
Then there’s Eric Holder, the Former Attorney General who oversaw what many Americans see as a corrupt Department of Justice. Following his involvement in the Fast and Furious scandal, “project-gunrunner,” that left an American border agent dead, the Attorney General failed to turn over documents pertinent to the investigation. He too was held in contempt of Congress.
Despite the reprimand from the House of Representatives, no charges followed.
Most recently there’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who FBI Director James Comey himself acknowledged egregiously mishandled classified materials, endangering national security. Yet the FBI recommended that no criminal referral be brought.
Perhaps the most egregious example is John Koskinen — Commissioner of one of the most powerful government agencies — the Internal Revenue Service.
John Koskinen’s Chief Counsel knew in February of 2014 that there were problems with Lois Lerner’s hard-drive. He waited four months before he told Congress. During that four month timeframe, with two congressional-subpoenas and three preservation orders in place, the IRS destroyed 422 back-up tapes containing as many as 24,000 emails.
Any American who has ever dealt with the IRS knows how important document preservation, full disclosure, and transparency is. A wrong move could get you fined — or worse, land you in jail. No private citizen being audited by the IRS could get away with such behavior. Why should John Koskinen?
In Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton wrote that the power to impeach a civil servant should protect the public against “the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Time and time again, Koskinen both abused his power and violated the public’s trust in the IRS.
The primary — perhaps the only — argument against impeachment of the IRS Commissioner is that it hasn’t been done before. To date, no head of a government agency has been impeached by Congress — and that might be part of the problem.
It is clear Congress should be doing more to hold agencies accountable, not less. The facts show that impeachment is appropriate, but the House has to show the American people that it has the fortitude to do the right thing and finally hold this administration accountable.
Unless Congress acts, IRS Commissioner Koskinen – like Lerner, Holder, and Clinton– will be able to get away with abuse of his office as well.
Earlier this month, the House Freedom Caucus made a privileged motion on the House floor calling up articles of impeachment of Commissioner John Koskinen. The House of Representatives should immediately bring this to the floor for a vote. The American people deserve nothing less.
Reps. Jim Jordan (OH-4), Tim Huelskamp (KS-1), and John Fleming (LA-4) are all members of the House Freedom Caucus.