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IRS commissioner and House Judiciary panel face off today over impeachment effort

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen gets his day in court, I mean before a House panel, today.


The appearance comes after an effort to bring a vote on impeaching the 48th IRS commissioner to the full House floor last week was deferred so that the House Judiciary Committee could hear testimony from Koskinen.

The opportunity to present his side was a key reason that Koskinen visited the House earlier this month. With today's hearing, at which he's the only witness, he'll be able to do that, presuming, of course, that hostile GOP questioners give him the chance.

Koskinen, who missed a prior Judiciary Committee hearing on his job performance due to a schedule conflict, would not have been able to make his case if the impeachment consideration had gone straight to the House floor for a vote.

UPDATE, 4 p.m.: I'm out of my office, and actually out of town, at a personal finance bloggers conference, so I haven't had time to review the 3½-hour-long video of today's hearing. Until I get to that, here's the commissioner's written testimony, as well as some media reports on what happened as Koskinen fought to keep his job:

-- IRS boss Koskinen takes heat at impeachment hearing for faulty testimony from Fox News  
-- IRS Chief Koskinen Calls Impeachment 'Improper' at Hearing from Bloomberg  
-- IRS commissioner faces GOP critics seeking his impeachment from The Washington Post 
-- IRS chief apologizes to Congress for lost information from the Associated Press via The New York Times  

Long-time target: Members of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus of the Republican Party have been pushing for Koskinen's removal for more than a year for what they view as his malfeasance as head of the agency during Congressional investigations into how the IRS handled applications for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.

The IRS admitted that it inappropriately targeted some of the groups seeing the favorable tax status. While organizations with connections to various political stances were found to be part of the IRS mishandling of applications, Republicans have focused on the problems encountered by Tea Party affiliated groups.

The issue came to light in May 2013 with the release of a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration investigation findings. Further examination revealed thousands of emails from the account of Lois Lerner, the former chief of the IRS division charged with reviewing and granting the nonprofit status, were lost or destroyed.

Those missing emails are part of the reason the GOP says Koskinen should be removed from his post before his terms ends in November 2017.

What is impeachable? The standard for impeachment is not criminal intent, says Judiciary Committee member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). "The standard is breach of public trust, gross negligence, dereliction of duty -- certainly all of those have been met with the fact pattern of what the IRS did under Mr. Koskinen's watch," argues Jordan.

If the Judiciary Committee recommends Koskinen's impeachment, a full House vote is not expected until after the Nov. 8 election. A simply majority of the 435 members will mean that the matter goes to the Senate, where two-thirds of those members must vote for a conviction in order to remove the commissioner.

If, however, the Judiciary Committee decides not to move the impeachment process forward, House members who want Koskinen gone say they will again take steps to force a full chamber vote on his removal.

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