FBI’s James Comey, Andrew McCabe audited by IRS after angering Trump

Democrats and Republicans in Congress on Thursday expressed concern that the IRS under President Donald Trump may have targeted two of his political enemies with tax audits, joining in a rare unit to demand an investigation into the matter .

The requests came a day after reports that the IRS launched detailed reviews of the tax records of James B. Comey, the former FBI director, and Andrew McCabe, a deputy who later took over the agency . The two then-officials had been prime targets of Trump’s ire after probing the president as part of his 2016 campaign, leading Comey to raise the possibility this week that the newly revealed audits amounted to a political reward.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement that a ‘thorough investigation of this matter is crucial’ – adding that his panel would ‘consider what action’ it can take by itself. .

“Donald Trump has no respect for the rule of law, so if he tried to subject his political enemies to further IRS scrutiny, it wouldn’t surprise anyone. We need to understand what happened here because it raises serious concerns,” Wyden said.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the top Republican on the tax-focused House Ways and Means Committee, said separately in a statement that he would support “the investigation of all allegations of political targeting.” But Brady pointed to assurances from IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, who said he had no communication with Trump, and the GOP congressman also staged a political campaign against the agency for allegedly targeting conservatives under former President Barack Obama.

The bipartisan political backlash nonetheless reflected the seriousness of the allegations and long-simmering distrust of the IRS on Capitol Hill. For some, the news even raised the specter of the disgraced Nixon administration, when the president used the IRS – and its sweeping powers to scrutinize Americans’ finances – to prosecute his political enemies before being forced to resign. .

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An investigation into the matter would be led by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, who usually initiates investigations at the request of lawmakers. Wyden said Rettig told him in conversation that “any allegations of wrongdoing are taken seriously and referred to the [inspector general] for further examination. A senior government official familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss it, said Rettig referred the matter to TIGTA. A TIGTA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The IRS, meanwhile, stressed in a statement that Rettig personally “is not involved in individual audits or taxpayer matters,” which are instead handled by “career officials.”

“As commissioner of the IRS, he was never in contact with the White House – in either jurisdiction – on IRS enforcement or individual taxpayer matters” , the agency said. “He is committed to managing the IRS fairly and even-handedly from top to bottom.”

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For years, Trump has repeatedly and publicly attacked Comey and McCabe, calling for them to be charged with crimes and accusing them of pursuing a politically motivated witch hunt against him. Although both men have been investigated and sometimes criticized for their conduct, neither has been charged with any crime.

The types of IRS audits they have undergone are designed to be rare and random. The likelihood of two people so hated by the former president being audited within a few years raised concerns for Comey about a possible political abuse of IRS authority.

“I don’t know if anything inappropriate happened, but after learning how unusual this audit was and how much Trump wanted to hurt me during this time, it made sense to try to figure it out,” Comey said in a statement. “Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe someone abused the IRS to go after a political enemy. Given the role Trump wants to continue to play in our country, we should know the answer to this question.”

A lawyer for McCabe confirmed that he, too, had been audited.

The New York Times, which first reported on the audits, said Comey’s audit began in 2019, focusing on his 2017 tax return, the year he signed a seven-pound deal. figures. McCabe’s audit began in 2021, focusing on his 2019 tax return, the Times said.

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The McCabe audit was launched months into the Biden administration, but the agency is still headed by a Trump-appointed commissioner, Charles Rettig.

Since the politically motivated abuses of the Nixon administration, the IRS has prided itself on systems designed to keep politics or personal motives out of the agency’s tax review process. Asked about the Comey and McCabe audits, the IRS said in a statement that privacy laws prevent them from discussing specific taxpayers.

“Audits are handled by career officials, and the IRS has strong safeguards in place to protect the review process — and against politically motivated audits,” the statement said. “It is ridiculous and false to suggest that senior IRS officials have somehow targeted specific individuals for National Research Program audits.”

Lisa Rein and Jeff Stein contributed to this report.


Washington

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