Former FBI Director James Comey (2nd L) arrives on Capitol Hill for a closed hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, DC on December 7, 2018.
Alex Edelman | AFP | Getty Images
The head of the IRS has asked the Treasury Department’s internal watchdog to investigate the agency’s tax audits of two men who have been frequent targets of criticism from former President Donald Trump: ex-FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
The inquiry was announced Thursday, a day after The New York Times reported that both Comey and McCabe had been subject to the extremely rare audits.
Comey was audited for his federal tax returns for 2017 and 2019, according to the Times. McCabe was audited for his 2019 federal tax return.
Trump, who appointed current Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig to his post, served as president from January 2017 through January 2021.
The Times noted that only about one out of 30,600 tax filers were audited for their 2017 returns. The IRS’s data book says that for all returns filed for the tax years 2011 through 2019, just 0.55% of individual returns were audited.
“The IRS has referred the matter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for review,” said IRS spokesperson Jodie Reynolds, whose agency is a division of the Treasury Department.
“IRS Commissioner Rettig personally reached out to TIGTA after receiving a press inquiry,” Reynolds said.
Trump fired Comey as FBI director in 2017 as the bureau was investigating possible ties between members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.
McCabe, who became acting FBI director, himself was fired in March 2018 by Trump’s then-attorney general, Jeff Sessions, just days before McCabe was set to retire and become eligible for full pension benefits.
McCabe on Wednesday night called for an investigation of the audits during an interview on CNN, where he is a law enforcement analyst.
Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe speaks during a forum on election security titled, “2020 Vision: Intelligence and the U.S. Presidential Election” at the National Press Club in Washington, October 30, 2019.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
“It just defies logic to think that there wasn’t some other factor involved,” McCabe said, referring to the idea that audit targets are selected randomly. Both McCabe and Comey were told in letters that their returns were selected in that manner.
“I think that’s a reasonable question,” McCabe said. “I think it should be investigated. People need to be able to trust the institutions of government and so that’s why there should be some we should dig through this and find out what happened.”
Reynolds, the IRS spokesperson, said, “Federal Privacy laws preclude us from discussing specific taxpayer situations. Audits are handled by career civil servants, and the IRS has strong safeguards in place to protect the exam process – and against politically motivated audits.”
“It’s ludicrous and untrue to suggest that senior IRS officials somehow targeted specific individuals for National Research Program audits,” Reynolds said.
But Rep. Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat who has been a harsh critic of Rettig, on Thursday reiterated his demand for the IRS chief to be fired by President Joe Biden in light of the report of the audits, which he called “a titanic scandal.”
“If you think the audit of Donald Trump’s purported enemies was a random act of God then I have a bridge in North Jersey I’d like to sell you,” said Pascrell, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight.
“There may be no group on the face of this earth that deserves the benefit of the doubt less than Donald Trump and his government enablers,” the lawmaker said. “The IRS under Donald Trump’s handpicked commissioner Charles Rettig has been one catastrophe after another.”
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