Top members of the Senate Finance Committee are investigating the allegations of an IRS whistleblower who has alleged that a political appointee at the Treasury Department may have interfered with an audit of President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.
Staffers for committee chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., met with the whistleblower earlier this month and are expected to interview him again, The Washington Post reported. The Post’s Catherine Rampell reported that Grassley received the complaint in July but did not share it with Wyden, who only requested access to the complaint after reading in the press that Grassley had it.
The whistleblower is a career IRS official who filed a complaint in July, alleging that a Treasury appointee tried to interfere with the annual audit of Trump’s or Pence’s tax returns, the Post reported over the summer. The outlet reported on Monday that the whistleblower has since turned over additional documentation related to his complaint.
The whistleblower told the Post in July that he was not motivated by politics.
“Anyone who knows me knows I would not hesitate to do the same, as would most career IRS public servants, regardless of any political preference,” he said. “I take very seriously the duty of career civil servants to act with integrity and perform our duties impartially, even at the risk that someone will make a charge of bias.”
The complaint was first revealed in a court filing by House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., whose committee sued the Treasury Department for not turning over Trump’s tax returns as required by law.
The committee told a federal court that a “federal employee” approached them with “evidence of possible misconduct” and “inappropriate efforts” to influence an IRS audit of Trump or Pence.
Neal later said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that the complaint represents a “grave charge” that “cast doubt” on the IRS’ statements that “concern that IRS employees could be subject to undue influence when conducting mandatory audits of a President’s tax returns” is “unfounded.”
Acting Treasury inspector general Rich Delmar told the Post that his office is reviewing the department’s handling of the complaint. “The inquiry is ongoing, and will take into account that aspects of the underlying matter are the subject of litigation,” Delmar told the outlet.
Grassley criticized Neal last month for revealing details about the complaint before vetting the claims.
“Talking about the existence of a complaint before taking the time to speak with the whistleblower or follow up on the whistleblower’s complaint is irresponsible,” Grassley said in a statement.
But Wyden, who was kept in the dark on the complaint, responded by demanding a “bipartisan committee effort to get to the bottom of this,” adding that such an investigation “should have been started months ago.”
Little about the complaint has been made public because of federal laws restricting the disclosure of information related to IRS documents. But former IRS commissioner John Koskinen expressed concern that a political appointee would interfere in IRS business.
“Historically, tax administration is solely the domain of the IRS,” he told the Post. “It’s an important policy that the administration of the tax code is nonpartisan, treat everybody fairly, and not have any outside interference.”
Trump’s tax returns are at the heart of numerous legal battles after the president broke with decades of precedent in refusing to release any of his tax returns. As Neal fights to obtain Trump’s tax returns from the IRS, Trump is appealing to the Supreme Court to shield his tax returns from a subpoena issued by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
The issue is also playing out as Trump faces an impeachment inquiry triggered by a whistleblower at the CIA, who reported the president’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. Trump has lashed out at the anonymous whistleblower and numerous of the president's allies have named a CIA analyst purported to be the whistleblower in an unconfirmed report that has circulated widely among conservatives.
The IRS whistleblower told the Post that he was alarmed by the “reckless statements being made about whistleblowers.”
He added that such statements “attack the messenger when the focus should be on the facts that were presented. I am concerned also by the relative silence of people who should be repudiating these dangerous attacks in the strongest terms.”