Law & the Courts

The IRS Commissioner Belongs in Prison

John Koskinen at his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill in 2013. (Reuters photo: Jonathan Ernst)
That evidence did not destroy itself.

I do not usually go out of my way to publicly disagree with National Review editorials, but I respectfully dissent from our piece calling for the impeachment of IRS commissioner John Koskinen.

He shouldn’t be impeached. He should be imprisoned.

When the feds couldn’t make ordinary criminal charges stick to the organized-crime syndicate that turned 1920s Chicago into a free-fire zone, they went after the boss, Al Capone, on tax charges. Under Barack Obama, the weaponized IRS has been transformed into a crime syndicate far worse than anything dreamt of by pinstriped Model-T gangsters — because Al Capone and Meyer Lansky did not have the full force of the federal government behind them.

If you do not know the story — in which case, shame on you — a brief recap: After years of pressure from Democratic grandees including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Senator Chuck Schumer, the IRS began targeting conservative nonprofit groups for various kinds of illegal harassment. Applications for nonprofit status were wrongfully delayed and denied, while investigations into those organizations’ tax statuses were turned into partisan fishing expeditions in order to expedite harassment against donors, volunteers, and political activists. This involved organizations that are under the law explicitly permitted to engage in political activity. Democratic officials at the state level joined in and continue to do so, with California attorney general Kamala Harris demanding donor lists from California-based nonprofits that came into her crosshairs — with no legal justification.

This is a flat-out illegal campaign of criminal harassment and intimidation of political activists involving the criminal misuse of federal resources for illegal partisan political ends.

And what is IRS Commissioner John Koskinen up to? Lying to Congress and overseeing the destruction of evidence.

Every day this crime-enabling, justice-obstructing, lying, craven, tinpot totalitarian walks around in the sunshine is a day we should be ashamed to be Americans.

Oh, but he’s sorry! So, so very sorry.

Koskinen was called before the House on Tuesday to explain a few things. One of those things is: Why is the IRS destroying evidence under subpoena in this case? Another was: Why is the IRS commissioner lying to Congress?

Every day this crime-enabling, justice-obstructing, lying, craven, tinpot totalitarian walks around in the sunshine is a day we should be ashamed.

Koskinen is fluent in the mustelid dialect of Washington: “We did not succeed in preserving all of the information requested, and some of my testimony later proved mistaken.” There is a term for failing to “succeed in preserving information requested” during an official investigation: obstruction of justice.

What was he lying about? Obstruction of justice.

Specifically, Koskinen told Congress that no e-mails involved in the case had been destroyed since the current investigation was opened. In fact, e-mails and backup tapes duplicating those e-mails were destroyed with some vigor after the investigation began, and were being destroyed at least as late as 2014.

Congressional Republicans are preparing an attempt to impeach Koskinen. And that’s all well and good — an impeachment would at least constitute some punishment, and would keep him out of public office in the future.

But is strains credibility to believe that IRS agents were acting with anything other than malice aforethought when they destroyed evidence related to this case. The case has been very highly publicized, and it is extraordinarily unlikely that there is a single employee of the IRS, including the janitors, who is unaware of the investigation into the agency’s grotesque wrongdoings. Yes, what has happened is an abuse of authority and an indictment of the IRS on charges ranging from stupidity and incompetence to partisan servility.

It is also a crime.

The IRS has extraordinary investigative powers. It is the most fearsome of federal agencies: If Ahmad Rahami had been on the IRS’s radar for corporate tax fraud instead of on Homeland Security’s radar as a potential terrorist, his New Jersey chicken stand would have been swarming with neckless, gun-toting federal agents like it was a Cartagena whorehouse.

They must be held accountable for their crimes. We will not survive as a free society operating under something roughly resembling the rule of law if federal law-enforcement agencies — which is what the IRS really is — are permitted to run amok.

#related#Do you know what happened to Lois Lerner, the IRS manager at the center of the targeting scandal? She got a $129,000 bonus and a fat pension. She probably is beyond Congress’s reach for the moment, and it is a certainty that Barack Obama’s so-called Justice Department, which has been almost entirely reduced to an instrument of partisan politics, is ever going to lift so much as a pinky finger in this matter.

That leaves us with the commissioner. He is not the guiltiest party involved in this goat rodeo, but he is guilty enough. That evidence did not destroy itself, and it was not the work of some obscure junior personnel in Cincinnati. Impeach him? Sure. Take his pension? Absolutely. Bar him from ever setting foot on federal property for the rest of his miserable, shameful, parasitic life? If a way can be found.

But the reality is that John Koskinen is a common criminal, even if the relevant law-enforcement agencies refuse to treat him like one. He should spend the rest of his life in a very small room with no window.

— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.

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