Winners of elections are supposed to be at least a little bit magnanimous. They’ve won, their enemies have lost, what’s the point in being vengeful?
The House Freedom Caucus clearly did not get the magnanimity memo, because they’ve succeeded in forcing a House vote this week on a completely pointless effort to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
Outgoing Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a caucus member, is expected to file a privileged motion sometime Tuesday that’s required ahead of filing the formal impeachment document. Under chamber rules, that means anyone in the House can call up the resolution after two days, so the vote will happen on Thursday.
No, there haven’t been any impeachment hearings where the case against Koskinen could be discussed, witnesses called, rejoinders heard. That’s because the House Judiciary Committee refused to be a party to this particular witch-hunt. And I guess the Freedom Caucus folk have heard their own voices enough in various right-wing echo chambers that they’ve concluded it would be a miscarriage of justice to let Koskinen stay on until D9nald Trump fires him, probably on January 20.
Koskinen’s high crime and misdemeanor was to deny he destroyed emails supporting the Freedom Caucus’s own claim that a section of the IRS was persecuting conservatives, and especially conservative Christians, by singling out their applications for 501(c) status for special scrutiny as they came pouring in after the 2010 elections. This “scandal” does sound worth looking into until you realize that the applicants (a) wanted this status purely and simply to hide their donors from public view; (b) weren’t messed with in any way whatsoever beyond having to wait by the mailbox for notifications that did not come, which is not the sort of fate normally associated with words like “persecution”; (c) were “targeted” because Tea Party–associated applications seemed to be coming out of nowhere in unbelievable quantities; and (d) eventually all but three applications were disposed of one way or the other. The emails really don’t matter unless you buy the whole conspiracy theory, but it sure did sound good in 2016 to yammer about Democrats and emails, didn’t it?
Even if you do somehow believe that denying people 501(c) status is the 21st-century equivalent of feeding them to the lions, the new administration can in a matter of weeks begin cleaning the Augean stables of this and every other agency, and if law-breaking is uncovered, it can refer the information to the appropriate prosecutors. But if the House Freedom Caucus has its way, the Senate will have to hold an expensive trial over removal of Koskinen just before the moving vans arrive in any event.
This is precisely the kind of embarrassing behavior House Speaker Paul Ryan doesn’t need at a time when he’s probably working 20 hours a day to reach agreement with the Trump people and the Senate on a budget-reconciliation bill designed to set back the cause of liberalism by many decades. But in this as in so many ways, Ryan has to keep these people calm if not happy. And you never know if the president-elect might insert himself into this brouhaha and demand Koskinen’s impeachment on Twitter.