IRS asks watchdog to review rare, invasive tax audits targeting James Comey, Andrew McCabe

Both FBI officials drew the ire of former President Donald Trump for positions they took both in and out of office.

ByLucien Bruggeman via ABCNews logo
Friday, July 8, 2022
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Calls for the head of the IRS to step down are growing after a report revealed two former top FBI officials were subject to invasive tax audits.

WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service is asking a government watchdog to review a pair of exceedingly rare and invasive tax audits targeting James Comey and Andrew McCabe, a spokesperson confirmed to ABC News.

The matter will be analyzed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Comey, the former director of the FBI, and McCabe, his deputy at the time, both drew the ire of former President Donald Trump for positions they took both in and out of office.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Comey and McCabe were two of only several thousand Americans a year to attract these particular types of audits.

For 2017 tax year returns, the return for which Comey was audited, only 5,000 Americans were chosen. For 2018 tax year returns, the year for which McCabe was audited, 8,000 were chosen. More than 150 million Americans filed taxes in each of those years.

An IRS spokesperson said any suggestion that these two individuals were targeted would be "ludicrous and untrue."

Former FBI Director James Comey, left, and former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.
Getty Images, Reuters

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig "personally reached out" to the inspector general after receiving a press inquiry about the audits, the spokesperson added.

The Times reported that Comey's audit began in November 2019 and McCabe's began in October 2021. Rettig, a Trump appointee, was IRS commissioner at the time both audits began and remains commissioner at this time. His term expires in November.

"Federal Privacy laws preclude us from discussing specific taxpayer situations. 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 IRS spokesperson said.

The Treasury Department's inspector general for tax affairs did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment. A spokesperson for Trump told The Times that he had no knowledge of these audits.

McCabe told ABC News he has questions about why he was chosen for this rare audit.

"It is essential that institutions like the IRS can maintain the trust of the people they serve," McCabe said. "While the IRS investigator I dealt with was professional and responsive at all times, I have questions about how I was selected for this audit. I look forward to hearing the results of their internal inquiry to understand more about how this supposedly random enforcement effort is conducted."

Democrat Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee -- which has jurisdiction over taxes, IRS and the Treasury Department -- said his panel will look at potential action on the issue.

"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 said in a statement shared with ABC News. "We need to understand what happened here because it raises serious concerns. Commissioner Rettig reached out to me to reiterate that any allegations of wrongdoing are taken seriously and are referred to the [inspector general] for further review."

Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell went a step further, calling on President Joe Biden to fire Rettig. Pascrell chairs the Oversight Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, which is the House's tax-writing panel.

When asked during Thursday's press briefing if Biden still has confidence in the IRS chief, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would only say he is "up in November."

"He is a commissioner of the IRS. Part of the administration. I'm going to leave it at that," Jean-Pierre said.

She would not comment further and referred questions to the IRS.

- ABC News' Trish Turner and Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.