THE IRS SCANDAL BEATS A PATH TO THE WHITE HOUSE
The time has come for Congress to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate each of the IRS employees and officers involved in directing and implementing Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups, conservative candidates, and conservative donors and to determine the extent to which the White House is involved. The trail now clearly leads back to the IRS Chief Counsel and the IRS Commissioner, the only two presidential appointees at the service. The discriminatory treatment of conservatives at the behest of these presidential appointees thus raises the question what did Obama know and when did he know it? The circumstantial evidence strongly points back to the White House, because it is highly unlikely that either the IRS Commissioner or the IRS Chief Counsel would dare commence a systematic, department wide, illegal campaign of discrimination against conservatives without clear directives to do it from the White House.
There is every reason to suspect that the targeting occurred based on a political directive coming from the White House. The timing of the discriminatory treatment of conservatives (coming immediately before and during the 2010 mid-term congressional and 2012 presidential elections) immediately calls into question whether the President or others in the White House directed or were aware of and condoned the actions. Although it is possible that a political operative other than those in the immediate circle around the President could have communicated the desire for these unlawful actions, it is likely that neither the IRS Commissioner nor the IRS Chief Counsel would undertake such an extensive campaign of discrimination without direct and clear assurances that the President desired the actions be taken.
The present IRS scandal stands as the most extensive abuse of IRS power in American history, reaching not single taxpayer opponents of the President but hundreds of conservative non-profits seeking tax exempt status and several tea party candidates and donors to their campaigns. It cries out for the appointment of a special prosecutor by the Congress of the United States.
In testimony this past week before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, IRS tax law specialist Carter Hull and other IRS attorneys testified that the office of the IRS Chief Counsel (William Wilkins) was directly and substantially involved in the targeting of conservative groups, the delaying of their applications for tax exempt status, and the establishment of a “template” of unconstitutional, highly intrusive questions about the groups’ political objectives, plans and affiliations. Hull testified that Director of the Division of Tax Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner ordered Hull to send certain Tea Party applications for tax exempt status to Lerner’s office and then to the IRS Chief Counsel’s office for further review in late 2010 and early 2011. Hull testified that in 2011 although he possessed all information needed to recommend action on the tax exempt applications he was directed to send the applications to those higher up for what he described as an “unusual” and “rare” “further review.” This was the first time in Hull’s 50 year career at the IRS that he had ever been directed to take these actions. He had also been directed to pose what were highly intrusive and unconstitutional queries to the groups, thus delaying action for several months to years. The Chief Counsel’s office wanted to know more about the conservative groups’ activities immediately preceding the 2010 mid-term elections. The Chief Counsel’s office prepared a template for what became the discriminatory handling of the conservative applications.
Dave Boyer and Ben Wolfgang wrote a Washington Times exclusive, “Feds admit improper scrutiny of candidate, donor tax records,” July 15, 2013, in which they revealed that Senator Charles Grassley had been informed by the Department of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George that the IRS had improperly scrutinized (audited) the tax records of certain political candidates and donors to those candidates. George referred one of these cases of “intentional” violation to Attorney General Eric Holder, but Holder declined to investigate. Grassley wants to know why Holder failed to take action.
The evidence reveals wide spread IRS corruption and abuse of power and repeated failings by the Department of Justice to act to investigate and prosecute those responsible. The evidence also beats a trail to the White House, raising the distinct prospect that those in service to the President in the White House may have directed the corrupt and abusive acts. Because the Department of Justice is directly implicated and has a conflict of interest in investigating its own misconduct, the Congress must appoint its own special prosecutor to determine who has violated the law and to ensure that each law violator is indicted and prosecuted. In particular, we need to know what the President knew as well as those around him. If evidence establishes that the President directly authorized or condoned illegal acts by the IRS, those would constitute impeachable offenses, warranting House adoption of articles of impeachment.
Under Article I, Section 2, Clause 5, the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment, meaning that the House has the exclusive authority to draw up articles of impeachment and to vote to impeach the President of the United States. Under Article I, Section 3, Clause 6, the Senate has the exclusive power to try impeachments. When the President is tried for impeachment in the Senate, the Chief Justice presides. Conviction for impeachment depends on a vote of two-thirds of the members of the Senate present. Under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, the President can be removed from office following conviction for impeachment for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The term “high crimes and misdemeanors” has a distinctive meaning common at the time of the founding of the republic. High crimes are ones that peculiarly affect those who serve in public office and have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. High crimes and misdemeanors refers to a broad range of crimes by public officials both high and petty, such as perjury, bribery, misappropriation of public funds, and all manner of statutory and constitutional law violations. In short, any unlawful act by the President that calls into question the public trust reposed in the office of the President justifies conviction for impeachment and removal from office. If adjudicated guilty of the articles of impeachment, the Constitution in Article I, Section 3, Clause 6, provides that the President may be removed from office and disqualified to hold any other public office of the United States and may thereafter be subsequently indicted, tried, judged, and punished under the criminal laws.
In this case, if it were shown that the President either directed or condoned the discriminatory IRS targeting of conservative groups, conservative candidates, and conservative donors, he would be guilty of violating the Hatch Act, civil rights laws, and specific statutory and regulatory provisions protecting taxpayer confidentiality and due process. Those law violations would be more than sufficient to justify impeachment and removal of the President from office.
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