August Miller, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Impeachment is "not something I'm willing to take off the table," Rep. Jason Chaffetz said Wednesday after grilling a former Internal Revenue Service boss about what the White House knew about the agency targeting conservative groups.
The Utah Republican has been making headlines for raising the prospect of impeaching President Barack Obama as Congress delves into the administration's handling of the deadly embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya, the seizing of journalists' phone records and the accusations against the IRS.
The National Review Online Monday described Chaffetz as a "brash, 46-year-old conservative" who is tired of waiting for answers, even though House Speaker John Boehner has urged him to be patient.
A Huffington Post story updated Tuesday highlighting the National Review interview was headlined, "Jason Chaffetz Doubles Down on Possible Obama Impeachment: 'I'm Not a Patient Person.'"
Chaffetz repeated that statement again Wednesday in an interview with the Deseret News and KSL-TV, where he said he has only been responding to questions about possibly impeaching the president.
"It's not something I'm seeking. It's not something I'm driving for. That's not the goal or the end game," he said. "It's not something I'm willing to take off the table."
Chaffetz said he and Boehner had talked about the amount of time such investigations take.
"I'm not a patient person. I want to get to the bottom of this right away. But the speaker has urged caution and temperance and being patient, that these investigations sometimes take years to play out," Chaffetz said.
His Utah constituents, the congressman said, also don't like having to wait.
"When I hear constituents in Utah, they want to have this thing solved and exposed right on Day One," Chaffetz said. "These things do take time for Congress to untangle."
University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle, who is active in the Republican Party, suggested that Chaffetz may want to be careful in discussing impeachment.
"It seems like it's probably a little bit early to be talking about impeachment," Hagle said.
He said if Chaffetz makes statements about the president that aren't sufficiently backed up, he could be affected politically.
Chaffetz "may get characterized as more extreme if he makes those claims without something solid," Hagle said. "The national profile he's been cultivating could all of a sudden be a problem for him."
At Wednesday's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing into the allegations that the IRS subjected tea party organizations seeking tax exemptions to stronger scrutiny, Chaffetz questioned former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman.
Shulman repeatedly answered, "not that I remember," when asked if he had ever discussed the allegations with the White House that, Chaffetz said, first surfaced in June 2011.
That clearly frustrated Chaffetz, who told the Deseret News and KSL-TV that a special prosecutor may be needed and some of the people involved in targeting the conservatives groups should be behind bars.
"There ought to be some people who go to jail for this," he said, adding that Democrats are joining in the push for answers. "We might be moving toward a special prosecutor in this case."
Chaffetz said that "using the IRS as a political tool is just the most un-American thing you can possibly do. For them to claim they didn't know about it until a couple of weeks ago is hogwash."
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