(The Hill) – The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) conducted purportedly random, intensive audits of two former top FBI officials who drew the ire of former President Trump, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The Times published letters received by former FBI Director James Comey and Andrew McCabe, his deputy who became acting director after Trump fired Comey, indicating the IRS was conducting National Research Program audits of their 2017 and 2019 tax returns, respectively.
“We must examine randomly-selected tax returns to better understand tax compliance and improve the fairness of the tax system,” both letters state.
Trump has repeatedly criticized both men for their roles in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, both during and after their time at the bureau.
The Times reported that the odds of being selected for the specific audit were tiny, with the IRS having targeted about one in every 30,600 tax returns for the intensive scrutiny in 2017.
“Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe somebody misused the IRS to get at a political enemy,” Comey told the Times. “Given the role Trump wants to continue to play in our country, we should know the answer to that question.”
Comey received a $347 refund after the audit, while McCabe, who echoed similar concerns about his audit, owed a small amount of money, according to the Times.
“The revenue agent I dealt with was professional and responsive,” McCabe told the Times. “Nevertheless, I have significant questions about how or why I was selected for this.”
Trump appointee Charles Rettig ran the IRS during both of the men’s audits.
The IRS in a statement to The Hill denied the audits were politically motivated but said allegations of wrongdoing are “routinely” referred to the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration for further review.
“Federal privacy laws preclude us from discussing specific taxpayer situations,” the IRS said.
“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 statement continued. “It’s ludicrous and untrue to suggest that senior IRS officials somehow targeted specific individuals for National Research Program audits.”
A Trump spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
Both Comey and McCabe repeatedly came under fire from Trump during his presidency.
Comey’s decision to reopen an investigation into then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s private email server two weeks before the 2016 election was seen by many Democrats as a contributor to her eventual loss.
But Trump fired Comey nearly four months into his term as president. At the time, Trump cited recommendations to dismiss Comey from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
But in the years since, Trump has offered varying explanations for why he removed the former FBI director and has at times acknowledged the Russia investigation played a role.
Comey’s firing in May 2017 led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to probe potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as possible obstruction of justice.
Sessions fired McCabe just a day before he was scheduled to retire amid allegations he lied about leaking information about Clinton’s private email server. McCabe filed a lawsuit in 2019 claiming his firing was politically motivated.