James Comey and Andrew McCabe — the former FBI director and former acting FBI director who drew former President Trump’s ire over the Russia investigation — were targets of an intensive, incredibly rare IRS audit that is supposed to be random, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The IRS said on Thursday that it has asked the tax inspector general to investigate the matter, noting that Trump-appointed IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig “personally reached out.”
The odds of being selected for the audit are microscopic. The Times points out that out of around 153 million Americans who filed tax returns in 2017, only around 5,000 were selected for the audit, making the odds for any given individual to be selected around 30,000 to one. Comey was selected for the audit in 2017. McCabe was selected in 2019.
“Your federal income tax return for the year shown above was selected at random for a compliance research examination,” the letters the IRS sent to Comey and McCabe read. “We must examine randomly selected tax returns to better understand tax compliance and improve fairness of the tax system. We’ll give you the opportunity to explain any errors we may find during the examination.”
Comey’s audit revealed he had slightly overpaid his taxes and was given a refund. McCabe’s revealed he had slightly underpaid, and he made up the difference.
“I don’t know whether anything improper happened, but after learning how unusual this audit was and how badly Trump wanted to hurt me during that time, it made sense to try to figure it out,” Comey said in a statement to the Times. “Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe somebody misused the IRS to get at a political enemy. Given the role Trump wants to continue to play in our country, we should know the answer to that question.”
“The revenue agent I dealt with was professional and responsive,” said McCabe. “Nevertheless, I have significant questions about how or why I was selected for this.”
Trump fired Comey as FBI director in May 2017 as the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia. The White House initially said Comey was fired because of how he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, but Trump later admitted he fired him because of the Russia investigation. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,’” Trump told NBC News. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
Trump continued to bash Comey as a treasonous “dirty cop” for leading the FBI during the investigation, among other colorful insults. He would similarly bash McCabe, who took over the bureau before stepping down in Jan. 2018. Trump’s hatred of McCabe ran so deep that he was fired two months after he stepped down, just before he was slated to retire. The last-minute termination prompted McCabe to successfully sue the Justice Department in order to secure his pension.
As the Times points out, it is illegal for anyone in the executive branch to request the IRS audit someone’s taxes.