The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has asked the United States Treasury Department’s inspector general to immediately review the circumstances surrounding intensive tax audits that targeted two former FBI officials who were frequent targets of ex-President Donald Trump’s anger.
IRS spokesperson Jodie Reynolds said on Thursday that IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig had personally reached out to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to look into the audits of ex-FBI Director James Comey and ex-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Reynolds said the agency has officially referred the matter to the inspector general.
But Reynolds insisted it is “ludicrous and untrue to suggest that senior IRS officials somehow targeted specific individuals for National Research Program audits”.
“Federal privacy laws preclude us from discussing specific taxpayer situations,” the IRS said in a statement released on Thursday, as reported by US media outlets.
“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.”
The probe comes a day after The New York Times reported that Comey and McCabe were subjected to rare IRS audits of their tax returns.
The newspaper said Comey was informed of the audit in 2019 and McCabe learned he was under scrutiny in 2021.
The odds of being selected for the invasive audits are extremely low, the Times reported: “Out of nearly 153 million individual returns filed for 2017, for example, the IRS targeted about 5,000, or roughly one out of 30,600,” it said.
McCabe told CNN on Thursday that he believed referring the matter to the inspector general “is the right step, but let’s see if the IG moves on it and then makes their findings public”.
Trump repeatedly attacked both men over the FBI’s Russia investigation, which shadowed his presidency for years. Trump sacked Comey in 2017 in the midst of the probe, which examined possible ties between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.
Nearly a year after his dismissal, Comey accused the former Republican president of being “morally unfit” for the office. “The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him,” Comey said in an interview.
McCabe was fired in March 2018 after the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded he had authorised the release of information to a newspaper reporter and then misled internal investigators about his role in the leak.
The termination by Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, came hours before McCabe was due to retire.