Former President Donald Trump tried to arm the IRS and repeatedly asked his former chief of staff to investigate his political opponents, according to a new report.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said the New York Times that his former boss demanded that he “turn on the IRS” former FBI director James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe after men criticized him.
The discovery came after Comey and McCabe were selected for a rare and intense audit by the IRS in the years after Kelly’s departure, the newspaper said.
Kelly, who was chief of staff from July 2017 to January 2019, said the requests were in addition to more widely reported attempts to use the Justice Department against his critics.
He said Trump thought he would blindly follow the president’s pleas and be loyal to him.
“I told him we were loyal to our constitutional oath,” said Kelly The Times.
Kelly said Trump ignored this belief and continued to urge others to take revenge on his critics through the authorities and government powers.
“If he told you to slit someone’s throat, he thought you’d come out and do it,” Kelly said.
The former chief of staff said he would explain to the president that his demands were morally and legally wrong, but Trump often remained steadfast in his desire to investigate people he believed had hurt him.
“I’d say,” It’s inappropriate, it’s against the law, it’s against their integrity, and the IRS knows what it’s doing, and it’s not a good idea, “Kelly told Trump.
“Yes, but they write bad things about me,” Trump allegedly replied.
After Kelly left the White House and Trump-appointed political head of the IRS, both Comey and McCabe were informed that they were under audit. Comey was informed that his 2017 returns were audited in 2019 and McCabe was informed that his 2019 returns were audited in 2021, according to the Times.
Trump said he knows nothing about Comey’s and McCabe’s tax audits. Officials said the two men were randomly selected, although the IRS asked its inspector general to investigate the matter.
Comey’s tax return was one of 5,000 tax returns selected for invasive audit out of 153 million tax returns filed in 2017. McCabe was one of the 8,000 people selected for the 154 million checks, the Times said.
Trump maintains that Kelly’s allegations are false.
“It’s a total fiction made by psychopath John Kelly, who had never said it before and only made it up because it became so irrelevant,” Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington told The Times.
The former president regularly hit Comey and McCabe in public during his tenure.
Kelly said Trump also made efforts to have the IRS and the Justice Department investigate Hillary Clinton, former CIA director John Brennan, Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, chief FBI agent in the Russian investigation of Peter Strzok and FBI official Lisa Page.
According to the Times, executive officers, including the president, are breaking federal law if they “demand, directly or indirectly,” that the IRS investigate or audit any taxpayer.
“The US government, whether it’s the tax office or the Department of Justice, should never be used as a weapon or used for retaliation, and certainly not because someone is criticizing you in the press or is your political opponent.” Kelly said.