In 2013, President Barak Obama nominated the retired John Andrew Koskinen as IRS Commissioner, and the Congress accepted it. Koskinen inherited an alleged IRS scandal that involved the IRS unfairly investigating politically conservative charities. Republican members of Congress were infuriated about it. Many of them called for the very unusual step of impeaching Commissioner Koskinen. In November, 2017, ten months after Donald Trump took office as U.S. president, Koskinen resigned.
Just prior to that, Speaker-of-the-House Nancy Pelosi had alleged, “The House Freedom Caucus is doing President-elect Trump’s dirty work for him. Breaking from their own Leadership and regular order, the Republicans’ latest quest to impeach the IRS Commissioner comes as the President-elect remains under audit by the IRS.”
Indeed, President Trump was the first president in over fifty years to refuse to make his recent tax returns public. Now, the president in under investigation in two very serious court cases in which his tax returns and other financial information have been subpoenaed by a grand jury. Both have been going on for about a year. The investigators are Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is a Black woman. But the man who could have released Trump’s tax returns without these lawsuits is Charles Rettig.
Charles Rettig eventually replaced John Koskinen as IRS Commissioner almost two years ago. Of course, President Trump nominated him, and the Republican-controlled Congress approved it.
Today, it was revealed that Mr. Rettig has a serious conflict of interest about President Trump. Since 2006, Rettig has owned two rental properties at the Trump International Waikiki resort in Honolulu, Hawaii. It has provided him with $100,000-$200,000 per year in investment income. But Mr. Rettig did not reveal this to Congress when it approved his nomination as IRS Commissioner, and he should have.
At that time, Congress questioned Rettig if he would turn over Trump’s tax returns if requested to do so. He said he would have the authority to do it, but in subjection to Secretary of State Steven Mnuchin. The House has repeatedly asked Mr. Rettig to turn over Trump’s tax records. But Rettig has refused to do so because Mnuchin has said the subpoena for the president’s tax returns “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”
Pelosi said last week, “When we win this election, and we have a new president of the United States in January, and we have a new secretary of the Treasury, and Richie Neal asks for the president’s returns, then the world will see what the president has been hiding all of this time.” Hiding? Isn’t that what magicians do–hide things?
Charles Rettig has what I regard as a specific shady association. According to his biography at his former law firm, Rettig is an associate member of the Academy of Magical Arts located at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. It is called “a clubhouse for magicians and magic enthusiasts.” It’s purpose is “the development of the art of magic.” This association began in 1952 and was incorporated in 1962. Its headquarters has been the Magic Castle since 1963. The Academy of Magical Arts has a worldwide membership of over 5,000.
Only Academy members, or a few special guests, can enter the Magic Castle. Upon entering, they must audibly state a secret pass code to a sculpture of an owl situated inside the Castle’s entrance. The building has various rooms. Regular Houdini seances are held in the Houdini Seance Room. It is said the club is haunted by Houdini’s ghost.
I have some doubts about the ethics of people involved in magic. One reason is what the Bible says about this subject. For example, when God through Moses brought the ten plagues upon Egypt, Pharaoh’s “magicians” were always trying to duplicate them (Exodus 7.11, 22; 8.7, 18-19; 9.11 NRSV).
The usual attitude of people today is that there is no harm in magic or seances or sorcery or even involvement with mediums who try to contact spirits of dead people, called necromancy. But the Bible strongly condemns some of this activity. Why is this? I believe it is because these are very significant ways in which people come under the influence of evil spirits, which I believe are members of Satan’s huge retinue of “fallen” angels. (I don’t endorse calling them “fallen;” I prefer to call them “evil.”) The following are some such biblical texts, starting with Israel’s Torah:
- “You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live” (Exodus 22.18).
- “Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19.31 NRSV).
- “If any turn to mediums and wizards, prostituting themselves to them, I will set my face against, and will cut them off from the people” says God (Lev 20.6).
- “A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned to death, their blood is upon them” (Lev 20.27).
- “No one shall be found among you who . . . practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the LORD, it is because of such abhorrent practices that the LORD your God is driving them [Canaanites] out before you” (Deuteronomy 18.10-12).
- “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness; . . . he had consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David” (1 Chronicles 10.13-14).
- “Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, ‘This man is the power of God that is called Great.’ And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic” (Acts 8.9-11). Philip then proclaimed the good news about Jesus, and may believed. Simon “stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the sings and great miracles that took place” (v. 13). The Apostle Peter then came there and more miracles happened with the laying on of hands. Simon the magician then “offered them money, saying, ‘Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money'” (vv. 18-21).
- Paul and Barnabas preached in the Jewish synagogues on Cyprus. “When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the evil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord. And now listen–the hand of the Lord is against you and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord” (Acts 13.6-12)
- “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul. . . . many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices. A number of those who practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins” (Acts 19.11, 18-19).