Senate aides met with tax return whistleblower: report

Aides to the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee met earlier this month with a federal employee who alleges possible inappropriate efforts to influence an IRS audit of President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE or Vice President Pence, The Washington Post reported Monday, citing two people with knowledge of the matter.

The Post reported that the lawmakers' offices are planning follow-up interviews and that it isn't known to what extent the senators — Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBottom line Graham: FBI investigation in 2016 turned into a 'criminal conspiracy' House GOP unveils alternative drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse GOP unveils alternative drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote Pelosi gets standing ovation at Kennedy Center Honors Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills MORE (D-Ore.) — consider the whistleblower to be credible.

The Post's report indicates that lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are looking at the whistleblower's allegations. The existence of the whistleblower was first made public in a court filing in August in the House Ways and Means Committee's lawsuit aimed at obtaining six years of President Trump's federal tax returns.

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Grassley and Wyden didn't confirm their aides' meeting with the whistleblower, citing Section 6103 of the tax code, which generally protects tax return privacy.

“You’re asking me something that I can’t answer. We don’t normally talk about ... whistleblower issues, but in this particular one because 6103 is involved I can’t even comment,” Grassley told reporters Monday.

A spokesman for Grassley said that his office generally doesn't comment on whistleblower meetings or whether they took place.

In a statement provided to The Hill, Wyden said, “I am aware of public reports of a whistleblower complaint related to the mandatory audit program of the president and vice president. Because any discussion of this matter may implicate section 6103 privacy requirements or whistleblower protections, I cannot comment further on the matter.”

The whistleblower first contacted the chairs of Congress's tax committees in July. The following month, the Ways and Means Committee revealed the whistleblower's existence in a court document. The Post reported in September that the whistleblower is an IRS employee who was told that at least one Treasury Department employee may have tried to interfere with an audit of Trump or Pence.

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Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealThis week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 Democrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week MORE (D-Mass.) is arguing that he wants to obtain Trump's tax returns from the IRS because his committee is conducting oversight and considering legislative proposals relating to how the IRS audits presidents. While it is internal IRS policy to conduct mandatory audits of presidents and vice presidents, it is not the law.

When Neal was asked last week if anyone with his committee has met with the whistleblower, he said, "I know that the follow-up has taken place."

He added that his office is "exhausting every avenue" to make sure that the whistleblower's complaint is credible.