The head of the Internal Revenue Service, Charles Rettig, has asked the agency’s inspector general to investigate why former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe were both selected to undergo rare, invasive audits in recent years
“The IRS has referred the matter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for review,” the agency said in a statement to The New York Times, adding that the IRS commissioner had “personally reached out” to the watchdog.
The request came a day after The New York Times first reported that both Comey and McCabe were subjected to the intensive audits, which are supposed to be random. The newspaper noted that just 5,000 people were selected in 2017 out of153 million returns, or about 1 in 30,600. Both men, who didn’t know the other had been targeted for the process until the Times informed them, raised questions about the randomness of the audits as both were seen as enemies by former President Donald Trump.
Both Trump and the IRS have denied any impropriety.
“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 on Wednesday. “Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe somebody misused the I.R.S. 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.”
McCabe added to CNN on Thursday that referring the issue to the IRS watchdog was the “right step.”
“But let’s see if the IG moves on it and then makes their findings public,” he said.
Trump, who appointed Rettig in 2018, exerted unprecedented levels of pressure over sectors of the government while in office. Top Democrats pointed to his tenure in the White House as evidence of their concern, also calling for an independent investigation.
Today I am again calling on Pres Biden to fire trump’s IRS head Charles Rettig. IRS auditing trump’s enemies is a titanic scandal. If you believe this was random I have a bridge to sell you in North Jersey.
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@BillPascrell) July 7, 2022
“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,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told the Times.
Republicans defended Rettig, with Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, saying the commissioner had “stated unequivocally he has had no communication with President Trump, and the research audits are statistically generated.”
“I support investigating all allegations of political targeting,” Brady said in a statement.
Following allegations of IRS political targeting, @RepKevinBrady:
“As we learned from the repeated targeting of conservative groups & dangerous leaking of private tax returns under the Obama & Biden Admins, the IRS should never be used as a weapon against political opponents." pic.twitter.com/peRFejHIFd
— Ways and Means GOP (@WaysandMeansGOP) July 7, 2022
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.