Former President Donald Trump attempted to weaponize the Internal Revenue Service and repeatedly asked his former chief of staff to have the agency investigate his political opponents, a new report found.
Trump’s White House chief of staff, John Kelly, told the New York Times that his one-time boss demanded him to “get the IRS on” former FBI director James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe after the men criticized him.
The revelation comes after Comey and McCabe were selected for a rare and intense audit by the IRS in the years following Kelly’s departure, the newspaper reported.
Kelly, who was chief of staff from July 2017 through January 2019, said the requests were in addition to Trump’s more widely-reported attempts to use the Justice Department against his critics.
He said Trump thought he would blindly fulfill the president’s requests and be loyal to him.
“I told him we were loyal to our oath to the Constitution,” Kelly told the Times.
Kelly said Trump ignored that belief and continued to push others to take revenge on his critics through their governmental authorities and powers.
“If he told you to slit someone’s throat, he thought you would go out and do it,” Kelly said.
The former chief of staff said he would explain to the president that his requests were morally and legally wrong, but Trump often remained steadfast in his desires to investigate those he believed to have wronged him.
“I would say, ‘It’s inappropriate, it’s illegal, it’s against their integrity and the I.R.S. knows what it’s doing and it’s not a good idea,’” Kelly said he told Trump in the interview.
“Yeah, but they’re writing bad things about me,” Trump reportedly replied.
After Kelly left the White House and a Trump political appointee was leading the IRS, both Comey and McCabe were informed they were being audited. Comey was informed his 2017 returns were being audited in 2019 and McCabe was informed his 2019 returns were being audited in 2021, according to the Times.
Trump told the outlet that he knows nothing about the audits of Comey’s and McCabe’s taxes. Officials said the two men were chosen randomly, though the IRS has asked its inspector general to investigate.
Comey’s tax return was one of 5,000 tax returns selected for the invasive audit out of 153 million returns filed in 2017. McCabe was one of 8,000 people selected for the audit of 154 million, the Times reported.
Trump retains that Kelly’s allegations are false.
“It’s total fiction created by a psycho, John Kelly, who never said this before, and made it up just because he’s become so irrelevant,” Trump spokeswoman, Liz Harrington, told the Times.
The former president publicly slammed Comey and McCabe on a regular basis during his term.
Kelly said Trump also sought to have the IRS and Justice Department investigate Hillary Clinton, former CIA director John Brennan, Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, lead FBI agent of the Russia investigation Peter Strzok and FBI official Lisa Page.
Executive branch employees, including the president, are breaking federal law if they “request, directly or indirectly” that the IRS conduct an investigation or audit of any taxpayer, according to the Times.
“The U.S. government, whether it’s the I.R.S. or the Justice Department, should never be weaponized or used to retaliate, and certainly not because someone criticizes you in the press or is your political opponent,” Kelly said.