Finance

Lawmakers call for investigation into IRS audits of Comey, McCabe

Democratic and Republican congressional lawmakers are calling for an investigation into whether top former FBI officials had been illegally targeted for especially intensive audits by the IRS under an appointee of former President Trump, who deemed the officials political enemies.

Following a New York Times report that former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had been the object of successive, very particular types of audits that are supposed to be done at random, lawmakers insisted that a thorough investigation into the matter is “crucial.”

Comey, who was fired by Trump, had about a 1-in-30,000 chance of getting this special kind of audit, which is part of something called the National Research Program at the IRS, according to The New York Times.

McCabe’s audit, which was part of the same program, had about a 1-in-20,000 chance of occurring and happened only two years later.

“Donald Trump has no respect for the rule of law, so if he tried to subject his political enemies to additional IRS scrutiny that would surprise no one,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a statement to The Hill. 

Wyden said the IRS commissioner, Charles Rettig, who assumed his position in 2018 under the Trump administration, reiterated that any allegations of wrongdoing had been referred to the agency’s inspector general for further review. Rettig’s terms ends in November.

“A thorough IG investigation of this matter is crucial, and we’re going to look at what steps the Finance Committee could potentially take,” Wyden added.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he supported the referral to the inspector general. 

“I support investigating all allegations of political targeting — consistent with the precedent set by the House Ways and [Means] Committee when investigating President Obama’s disgraced former IRS director Lois Lerner, who the committee confirmed had engaged in this abuse,” Brady said, referring to reports of scrutiny by the IRS under the Obama administration of political groups applying for tax-exempt statuses. 

Brady’s Democratic counterparts on the panel said such an investigation should be fast-tracked due to the improbability of the successive audits. 

“The recent news report that not just one, but two of former President Trump’s foes were subject to rare, invasive audits under his IRS is an unlikely coincidence, and reeks of political targeting,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said in a statement.

“The American people put their trust in the IRS, and count on it to be beyond reproach. This political targeting by the former administration is a crack in IRS’s fragile credibility that threatens its core mission—full and fair tax administration,” he continued.

Neal said he had already spoken to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) J. Russell George about the successive audits.

“As I said to Inspector George this morning, TIGTA must immediately conduct a comprehensive investigation. The public needs to know the extent of this wrongdoing, and bad actors should be held accountable. ”

Other Democratic members of the Ways and Means Committee also called for action from TIGTA.

“Since the Trump Administration used other illegal tools in attempting to remain in power, there is certainly reason for concern that this is more than an improbable coincidence,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) told the Hill in a statement. 

“I am requesting the Inspector General to conduct a formal investigation into who, when, and why these audits were directed with a report on the findings. This is usually a slow process, but I hope it can be expedited,” he said.

The IRS said the notion that it had politically targeted the FBI officials was “ludicrous.”

“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,” the agency said in a statement.”

The IRS said it had already referred Comey and McCabe’s case to the IRS inspector general. 

Tags Andrew McCabe Charles Rettig Donald Trump James Comey Kevin Brady Lois Lerner Ron Wyden
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