A day after a New York Times investigation revealed former FBI director James Comey and ex-deputy director Andrew McCabe both were selected for audits, the Internal Revenue Service revealed that it has asked a watchdog to investigate why the men vilified by Donald Trump came under such scrutiny.
According to the Times, neither Comey nor McCabe knew the other had been audited, and the odds of any single taxpayer being selected for one at random in 2017 was one in 30,600. Comey’s audit was for his 2017 tax return, and McCabe’s audit was for his 2019 return. Trump routinely attacked both men about what he perceived to be their insufficient loyalty during the Russia investigation, accusing both of treason.
The paper’s data reporter and statistician posted a follow-up article determining the odds that such an audit could have occurred by random. The odds were “minuscule,” but not zero, the paper noted.
A former IRS commissioner quoted in the original article would not blame those who thought this appeared to be more than a coincidence.
“Lightning strikes, and that’s unusual, and that’s what it’s like being picked for one of these audits,” John A. Koskine told the paper. “The question is: Does lightning then strike again in the same area? Does it happen? Some people may see that in their lives, but most will not — so you don’t need to be an anti-Trumper to look at this and think it’s suspicious.”
Trump denied knowledge of their audits to the Times through a spokesperson, and IRS commissioner Charles P. Rettig, a Trump appointee, told the paper that he had no involvement in individual audit decisions and has never been in contact with the White House on enforcement or individual taxpayer matters.
The agency said that Rettig “personally” requested a review after receiving a press inquiry.
“The IRS has referred the matter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for review,” the agency wrote in a statement. “IRS Commissioner Rettig personally reached out to TIGTA after receiving a press inquiry.”
The IRS denied conducting audits for politically motivated reasons.
“Federal privacy laws preclude us from discussing specific taxpayer situations,” the agency told Law&Crime in an email. “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.”
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told CNN that political retribution would be par for course for the former president.
“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,” Wyden told the network.
“We need to understand what happened here because it raises serious concerns,” he added.
The Times said that Comey’s audit revealed that he and his wife, Patrice Comey, had overpaid their 2017 federal income taxes, earning them a $347 refund. McCabe’s audit determined that he and his wife, Jill McCabe, owed a small amount of money, which they paid, according to the paper.
[image via Pete Marovich and Getty Images/FBI]
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