In his previous life, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy was the chief prosecutor for a two-county judicial circuit based in Spartanburg in northwest South Carolina. Halfway through his second term, it’s clear Gowdy, a rising star on the new Republican right, has not lost his prosecutor’s edge.
The latest evidence was presented Thursday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status under 501(c)(4) rules. Republicans on the committee are particularly interested in the e-mail traffic of Lois Lerner in her role as the former director of the tax-exempt division.
Lerner, well-known as an arch Democratic partisan at the Federal Elections Commission before arriving at the IRS in December 2005, already has been demonstrated – in limited e-mail bundles released to the committee – to have brought her activism with her to her new agency. A memo released earlier this month methodically details the essence of Lerner’s targeting tactics, her acknowledgement that she “felt pressure” to squeeze conservative groups and her attempts to cover her tracks.
Suspecting there’s much more to be learned, the GOP majority has subpoenaed the broadest possible cache IRS documents, with particular interest paid to Lerner’s e-mail, but the IRS appears to be slow-walking the process. Commissioner John Koskinen claimed fulfilling the committee’s request will “take years.” Or at least beyond November’s midterm elections.
Sniffing a politically motivated political freeze-out, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) bristled: “We don’t want the excuses anymore. You’re not working fast enough. It’s that simple.”
Gowdy, his prosecutor’s sense of evasiveness tingling, tore into Koskinen.
“I want the subpoena complied with and I want the subpoena complied with in a timely fashion,” Gowdy said. “Whether or not you think we need something, or we ought to have it, or we are on a wild goose chase, frankly I could care less what you think about that. Our subpoena is our subpoena. If you do not like it, move to quash it, otherwise comply with it!”
Wednesday night, Gowdy told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren the committee would have to consider holding Koskinen in contempt if the IRS failed to produce in a timely fashion.
“Well, we’re already going to do contempt of Congress for Lois Lerner,” he said, after Susteren asked what happens if the emails aren’t received. “That’s coming up in the very near future.”
“One of the reasons they don’t answer our subpoenas is they don’t fear any consequences,” Gowdy explained. “And that’s something I’ve never been able to explain to you, is why we don’t stand up for our institution more.”
Contempt citations? Things are just about to get interesting.