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House Republicans' IRS hearing doesn't go as planned

House Republicans put together a big show trial today because they want to impeach the IRS chief. They didn't plan on Democrats hijacking the proceedings.
This photo taken March 22, 2013, shows the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington.
This photo taken March 22, 2013, shows the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington.
Far-right House Republicans, ignoring their own congressional leadership, haven't given up on their crusade to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Their efforts don't make a lot of sense, and there's absolutely no way the impeachment drive will have any practical effect, but several GOP lawmakers see this as a useful electoral and fundraising tool -- and so the gambit continues.Last week, with the far-right threatening to force an impeachment resolution onto the House floor, Republicans reached an intra-party agreement: the House Judiciary Committee would hold a big hearing; the far-right would spend a couple of hours treating Koskinen like a rhetorical punching bag; conservatives would send out some fundraising letters; and the political world would move on.And for a while, everything was going according to plan. Koskinen appeared on the Hill and explained that there's no sane reason to impeach him, while assorted Republicans complained incessantly about the IRS controversy that was discredited years ago.But the twist came when Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee made clear that this hearing could serve their political purposes, too.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, asked if people under IRS audit are free to release their tax returns, a situation [Donald Trump] has asserted in refusing to release his forms. Koskinen said such taxpayers can release their returns.Nadler also asked if someone can use money from a charitable foundation to buy a portrait or a football helmet autographed by former quarterback Tim Tebow or to pay fees from legal disputes. Reports have said money from the Donald J. Trump Foundation has been used for those purposes.Koskinen said, generally, charitable money shouldn't be used to benefit someone who runs a charitable foundation.

Remember, this was supposed to be the far-right's show trial -- right up until those rascally Dems took advantage of the opportunity.Note, Nadler wasn't the only one. The Huffington Post reported:

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) wanted to know if there was anything that would stop someone from proving that they are in fact being audited by releasing the audit letter they got from the IRS."Would releasing the person's tax return during the audit in any way impact that pending audit of the return?" Deutch asked."The release itself wouldn't. The concern sometimes by taxpayers is that when the information is public there may be more information that will be discovered or provided," Koskinen said."That is the concern," Deutch agreed, sounding somewhat pleased with the admission. "We understand that is the concern."Democrats then went on to highlight some of the items that could prove problematic for Trump to disclose, such as his actual income, what he pays the government in taxes, clues to his actual net worth and records of his charitable giving. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) wondered aloud if discovering payments by Russia might suggest a monetary -- or even treasonous -- motive for going soft on a U.S. rival.

Needless to say, this wasn't the direction House Republicans had in mind, but let this be a reminder to members that interesting things can happen when they open a closed door.