By Ryan Rainey
May 24, 2016 at 3:48 pm ET
Many House Republicans — especially conservatives — are adamant that Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen has been a failure in his post. But on questions about what grounds he should be impeached, or whether impeachment is even necessary, they are singing different songs.
By now, the allegations of misconduct against Koskinen are familiar. He is alleged to have presided over the destruction of evidence related to the tax collecting agency’s political targeting scandal, in violation of a congressional subpoena. That alleged misconduct was the subject of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, which was seen as the starting gun in an effort to take up Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s resolution to impeach Koskinen.
Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who serves as the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, introduced the resolution in October. He defended his efforts before the Judiciary panel on Tuesday.
Koskinen didn’t show up for that hearing, although he was invited. He attributed his absence to short notice and a lack of time to prepare to testify. That irked Republicans enough that they blocked a written statement from Koskinen defending his tenure from being entered into the committee’s official record.
At Tuesday’s hearing, two core justifications for impeaching Koskinen emerged. One argument is that Koskinen has been an incompetent leader of the IRS who has failed to effectively manage employees. This incompetence constitutes “gross negligence,” which Republicans consider an impeachable offense.
That notion raises some questions. “There are lots of ways to screw up in your job that don’t rise up to the level of meeting the U.S. criminal code,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). “So the notion … that incompetence is a defense to an allegation of being incompetent, it’s hard for me to get my head around. ”