IRS Grudgingly Requests Investigation of Officials' Audits

Comey, McCabe faced intensive tax scrutiny under agency led by Trump appointee
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2022 8:00 AM CDT
Updated Jul 7, 2022 4:15 PM CDT
Comey on Rare Audit: 'Maybe Somebody Misused the IRS'
In this June 7, 2017, file photo, then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appears before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(Newser) Update: This file has been updated throughout with new information.
Despite calling it "ludicrous and untrue to suggest" that two top officials then-President Trump clashed with were chosen any way but randomly for intensive tax audits, the agency announced Thursday there will be an investigation. The IRS said in a statement that Commissioner Chuck Rettig had personally contacted the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration with the investigation request, Politico reports. Former FBI director James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe were both selected to undergo the rare audits, which take months to complete and cost thousands of dollars in accountant fees, by the IRS under the leadership of Trump appointee Rettig, which "presents extraordinary questions," per the New York Times.

Basically, the "chances of the two highest-ranking FBI officials—who made some of the most politically consequential law enforcement decisions in a generation—being randomly subjected to a detailed scrub of their tax returns a few years after leaving their posts" are "miniscule." In 2017, the chance of being selected for the audit was one in 30,600. Comey was informed in 2019 that his 2017 return was selected. Trump had fired Comey in 2017 and afterward raged about his lack of loyalty and pursuit of the Russia investigation, calling for his prosecution. Unbeknownst to Comey, McCabe was informed in 2021 that his 2019 return would undergo the same audit, though the chance of being selected in that filing year was about one in 19,250, per the Times.

McCabe, who became acting FBI director after Comey's exit and launched an investigation of Trump, was similarly assailed by the former president, who "accused him of treason and raised questions about his finances long after pushing for his dismissal and prosecution," the Times reports. "You don't need to be an anti-Trumper to look at this and think it's suspicious," says John Koskinen, IRS commissioner from 2013 to 2017. In the end, Comey and his wife, forced to pay $5,000 in accountant fees, were found to have overpaid by $347. "Maybe it's a coincidence or maybe somebody misused the IRS to get at a political enemy," Comey says, adding the question needs to be answered given "how badly Trump wanted to hurt me" and "the role Trump wants to continue to play in our country." McCabe and his wife were found to owe a small amount of money.

"It just defies logic to think that there wasn't some other factor involved," McCabe tells CNN. He said asking the inspector general to investigate is the right move but added, "let's see if the IG moves on it and then makes their findings public." The IRS says returns are "selected at random" for the National Research Program audits, which are meant to help the IRS determine where it should focus resources to reduce noncompliance. It adds that Rettig, set to leave his post in November, "is not involved in individual audits" and "has never been in contact with the White House ... on IRS enforcement or individual taxpayer matters." Plus, there are "strong safeguards in place to protect ... against politically motivated audits," it says, per the Washington Post. A rep for Trump claimed no knowledge of the audits. An agency spokesperson said it's "ludicrous and untrue to suggest that senior IRS officials somehow targeted specific individuals" for audits. (Read more IRS stories.)

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