House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa has warned Acting IRS chief, Danny Werfel with 5 years in prison, if he continues to obstruct the committee’s investigation. So far, only 12,000 of the 64 million pages requested have been turned over.
Werfel is on his own on this one. Neither President Obama or Eric Holder has a say in whether Werfel is prosecuted or not. The president cannot pardon Werfel. That power is only good for crimes against the federal government.
The affected chamber of the congress (in this case the House) is the judge, jury, and executioner. Once a citation would be issued for inherent contempt, the Speaker of the House must have the Sargeant in Arms of the House arrest Werfel and bring him to the floor of the House. If he is found guilty by the chamber, he is sentenced, usually by imprisonment.
The House precedent goes back to 1795 and is considered settled law, meaning the Supreme Court cannot rule to overturn the conviction. Because of the ending of the session of congress, Werfel could only be held until the end of the congress in December of 2014.
The last time the procedure was used, was in 1934, when FDR’s US Postmaster, William P. MacCracken, Jr, was sentenced to ten days for allowing documents to be torn up. McCracken appealed to SCOTUS, who ruled the Senate had not exceded it’s authority.
In his warning to Werfel, Issa wrote the following:
“Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime.”.
“Despite your promise to cooperate fully with congressional investigations, the actions of the IRS under your leadership have made clear to the committee that the agency has no intention of complying completely or promptly with the committee’s oversight efforts.
“The systematic manner in which the IRS has attempted to delay, frustrate, impede, and obstruct the committee’s investigation raises serious concerns about your commitment to full and unfettered congressional oversight,”
The letter was cosinged by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH.
The IRS counters that they are moving as fast as they can and that they are not obstructing the investigation. Issa countered that even the documents that have been turned over have been dramatically redacted, far beyond any need to preserve the privacy of taxpayers.