GOP lawmaker revives bogus IRS scandal from 2013 to defend Trump against impeachment


Rep. Kelly Armstrong tried to claim that the IRS unfairly targeted tea party groups in the mid-2000s, a conspiracy that has long been debunked.

A GOP lawmaker revived a debunked conspiracy about former President Barack Obama and the IRS on Thursday, in an attempt to try and excuse Trump's conduct toward Ukraine, which is at the heart of the current House impeachment proceedings.

Trump has been accused by multiple witnesses of withholding critical aid to Ukraine and conditioning a coveted White House meeting on the country's willingness to open investigations into Trump's political rivals. Those actions prompted the House to levy two articles of impeachment against Trump, one for abuse of power and another for obstruction of Congress, over Trump's refusal to cooperate with its earlier inquiry.

Trump has claimed he did nothing wrong.

"Obama's IRS engaged in politically motivated targeting of charitable groups," Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) claimed on Thursday, at a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against Trump.

Armstrong was attempting to argue that multiple other presidents had been accused of wrongdoing but had not faced impeachment, and that impeaching Trump would only set a dangerous precedent for future White House occupants.

The argument was dubious at best, especially given Armstrong's own admission that Clinton was impeached for lying under oath and obstruction — actions he did not lay out during his allotted time on Thursday.

Armstrong's claim about "politically motivated targeting" by Obama's IRS was also untrue.

For years, Republicans investigated the IRS over claims that the agency only made it more difficult for conservative groups — specifically ones affiliated with or tied to the tea party — to receive tax-exempt status. The accusation was finally debunked and proven false in 2017.

"Contrary to the Republican story, the IRS never targeted conservatives. The IRS targeted politics, which was pretty much what it was supposed to do," Francis Wilkinson, a Bloomberg opinion columnist, wrote in November 2017 after the scandal was finally debunked by a Treasury Department review, mentioning that liberal groups who also had political-sounding names received scrutiny to make sure they were properly being given tax-exempt status.

Republicans have spent much of the House impeachment proceedings rolling out long-debunked conspiracies and misleading anecdotes to defend Trump.

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing earlier in December, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) lied about facts surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attack that Republicans investigated for years only to find no wrongdoing by the Obama administration.

Multiple Republicans have also sought to defend Trump by pushing a baseless conspiracy theory that Ukraine somehow meddled in the 2016 election, rather than Russia.

The U.S. intelligence community unanimously agrees that Russia was responsible for the 2016 interference efforts, and experts have said pushing conspiracies about Ukraine's involvement only serves to help Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has also trafficked in the conspiracy.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.