Trump fired Comey in 2017, stepping up an investigation into Trump associates that had begun a year earlier. After Comey was fired, his deputy, Andrew McCabe, took over the FBI for several months, during which time the bureau began investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice.
For years, Trump has repeatedly and publicly attacked the two men, demanding that they be charged with crimes and accusing them of pursuing a politically motivated witch hunt against him. Although both men have been investigated and sometimes criticized for their conduct, neither has been charged with any crime.
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These types of IRS audits are designed to be rare and random. The likelihood of two people so hated by the former president being audited within a few years has Comey worried about a possible political abuse of IRS authority.
“I don’t know if anything inappropriate happened, but after learning how unusual this audit was and how much Trump wanted to hurt me during this time, it made sense to try to figure it out,” Comey said in a statement. “Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe someone abused the IRS to go after a political enemy. Given the role Trump wants to continue to play in our country, we should know the answer to this question.”
A lawyer for McCabe confirmed that he, too, had been audited.
The New York Times, which first reported on the audits, said Comey’s audit began in 2019, focusing on his 2017 tax return, the year he signed a seven-pound deal. figures. McCabe’s audit began in 2021, focusing on his 2019 tax return, the Times said.
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The McCabe audit was launched months into the Biden administration, but the agency is still headed by a Trump-appointed commissioner, Charles Rettig.
Since the politically motivated abuses of the Nixon administration, the IRS has prided itself on systems designed to keep politics or personal motives out of the agency’s tax review process.
Asked about the Comey and McCabe audits, the IRS said in a statement that privacy laws prevent them from discussing specific taxpayers.
“Audits are handled by career officials, and the IRS has strong safeguards in place to protect the review process — and against politically motivated audits,” the statement said. “It is ridiculous and false to suggest that senior IRS officials have somehow targeted specific individuals for National Research Program audits.”
The IRS statement also suggested that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration could look into the matter.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.
Lisa Rein contributed to this report.