Both men drew fierce criticism from then-President Donald Trump during their tenures at the highest levels of government. Trump regularly accused Comey of treason after he fired him over his role in the Justice Department’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. McCabe was also subject to repeated bashings by the then-president after he was fired for misleading FBI investigators.
The pair both provided letters to the Times from the Internal Revenue Service informing them of the audits — Comey’s for his 2017 tax return and McCabe’s for his 2019 return. Neither man knew the other had been subject to the audit until Times reporters told them.
The random audits are extremely rare, and it’s highly unlikely for an American to get selected. The Times noted just 5,000 people were selected in 2017 out of 153 million returns, or about 1 in 30,600. There’s no evidence that the IRS, which is currently headed by Trump appointee Charles Rettig, acted with any impropriety.
But the revelation raises questions about the likelihood that two FBI senior officials were both chosen for the deep dive into their finances. Trump exerted unprecedented leverage on sectors of the government while in office, including a pressure campaign on then-Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department to pursue false claims about election fraud to stay in power. Barr resisted that pressure and later resigned.
“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 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 also said he had “significant questions about how or why I was selected.”
“It just defies logic to think that there wasn’t some other factor involved,” he said later Wednesday on CNN. “I think that’s a reasonable question. I think it should be investigated. People need to be able to trust the institutions of government and so that’s why there should be some ― we should dig through this and find out what happened.”
Trump told the Times through a spokesperson that he had no knowledge of the audits. The IRS also said Rettig had no involvement with individual audits and had never been in contact with the White House.