The IRS said Thursday it had asked the tax inspector general to investigate how James B. Comey, the former FBI director, and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe — both perceived enemies of former President Donald J. Trump – faced rare, exhaustive audits that the agency said would be arbitrary.
†The IRS has referred the matter to the tax inspector general for review,” the agency said in a written statement, adding that its commissioner, Charles P. Rettig, had “contacted the inspector general personally” after he heard about the audits. †
The IRS disclosure came a day after DailyExpertNews reported that Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe had been the subject of audits that target only a few thousand Americans each year and are highly invasive.
In 2017, the tax year for which Comey was audited, the IRS says it randomly selected about 5,000 returns for auditing from the 153 million people who filed them. For 2019, the year Mr McCabe was audited, the agency says it has singled out about 8,000 returns of the roughly 154 million filed.
It is not clear how two close associates have been examined under the same audit program in a few years. Mr Comey and Mr McCabe both told The Times that they had questions about how the audits had come about.
Mr Trump said he had no knowledge of the audits. The IRS denies that anything went wrong.
“Federal privacy laws prevent us from discussing specific tax situations,” the IRS said in a statement released Thursday. “Audits are handled by professional officials, and the IRS has strong safeguards in place to protect the exam process — and against politically motivated audits. It is ludicrous and untrue to suggest that senior IRS officials have somehow targeted specific individuals for audits of the National Research Program.
Former IRS officials and tax attorneys said that because Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe were so frequently attacked by Mr. Trump — who pushed for their prosecution and accused them of treason — an inspector general or congressional committee should investigate.
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Oregon Democrat Senator Ron Wyden, said Mr. Rettig had contacted him to tell him that he had asked the Inspector General to investigate the matter and “reiterate that all allegations of misconduct are taken seriously and referred to the IG for further review.”
“Donald Trump has no respect for the rule of law, so if he tried to subject his political enemies to additional IRS scrutiny, it wouldn’t surprise anyone,” said Mr. Wyden. “We need to understand what happened here because it raises serious concerns.”
Mr. Wyden added: “A thorough IG inquiry into this matter is crucial and we are going to look at what steps the finance committee might be able to take.”
An old critic of Mr. Rettig, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, who previously served as Mr. Rettig had called for his resignation on unrelated matters, reiterated that demand on Thursday. Mr. Rettig was appointed by Mr. Trump as an IRS commissioner for a term expiring in November.
“The IRS under Donald Trump’s carefully chosen Commissioner Charles Rettig has been one catastrophe after another,” said Mr. Pascrell, chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight. “The control of two law enforcement officers at the behest of Trump is a titanic scandal.”
Mr Pascrell added: “If Mr Rettig cared the least bit about this office, he would be resigning today. And if he doesn’t go, Mr. Rettig should be dropped off.”