Lawmakers ask: Did the framers lay the groundwork for the IRS chief’s impeachment?

A panel of legal scholars on Wednesday debated the legal standards for impeaching Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, dividing over whether the framers of the Constitution meant to include gross incompetence as as reason for an ouster.

The experts, called to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, agreed that impeaching Koskinen, an executive branch official who is not a cabinet member, would set a precedent for Congress.

They locked horns on whether Congress should expand an accusation that until now has been used for judges, two presidents and, 140 years ag0, a secretary of war to include failure to comply with a congressional subpoena and lying to Congress — the charges House Republicans have leveled at Koskinen. Republicans claim that the tax collector, who came out of retirement in 2013 to take over the IRS during a scandal over the treatment of conservative groups, obstructed their investigation.

“If this committee believes that a witness came in and lied to it and obstructed its investigation, then that’s grounds for impeachment,” said George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a frequent witness before House and Senate committees on constitutional issues.

“Was it intentional, deliberate indifference?” he asked. “What hangs in the balance is whether our framework of government works.”
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