The I.R.S. selected former FBI chiefs James Comey and Andrew McCabe, two of ex-President Donald Trump’s top foes during his presidency, for an incredibly rare exhaustive tax audit when the agency was led by a Trump appointee.
The New York Times obtained I.R.S. documents showing that Comey’s return filing for 2017 –- the same year Trump fired the then-FBI director for disloyalty –- was chosen for the rare, intensive audit, which is called the National Research Program. The Times noted that of the nearly 153 million individual returns filed that year, only 5,000 of them were selected for that specific audit.
The documents similarly showed that McCabe’s 2019 tax return filing –- the year after Trump also fired him –- was one of the mere 8,000 filings the I.R.S. picked for the same audit program in 2019.
Comey and McCabe were informed of the audits in 2019 and 2021, respectively, when Trump-appointed commissioner Charles P. Rettig oversaw the I.R.S. Rettig actually remains in that post until this coming November.
Throughout his presidency and even after, Trump repeatedly bashed Comey and McCabe in his ceaseless rage over their refusal to scuttle the Russia investigation at his demand.
“Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe somebody misused the I.R.S. to get at a political enemy,” Comey told the Times on Wednesday. “Given the role Trump wants to continue to play in our country, we should know the answer to that question.”
The tax agency said in a statement to the Times that Rettig “has been committed to running the I.R.S. in an impartial, unbiased manner from top to bottom” and had nothing to do with Comey and McCabe’s audits.
“Commissioner Rettig is not involved in individual audits or taxpayer cases; those are handled by career civil servants,” the agency said. “As I.R.S. commissioner, he has never been in contact with the White House –- in either administration –- on I.R.S. enforcement or individual taxpayer matters.
It’s unknown how exactly Comey and McCabe were chosen or who made the decision to audit them. The I.R.S. does not publicly disclose its selection process for the intensive National Research Program and is prohibited from discussing specific cases. Comey gave the Times a privacy release so the I.R.S. could give the newspaper more information about the case.
Neither Comey nor McCabe knew they’d both been targeted until they were contacted by the Times reporter. McCabe called for an investigation into the matter during a CNN interview on Wednesday night.
“I think it should be investigated,” he said. “People need to be able to trust the institutions of government.”