NY Times: Both Comey and McCabe were 'randomly' audited by the IRS

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/File)

What are the odds that two of the people Trump fought with at the FBI were both chosen for an extensive audits by the IRS. According to the NY Times James Comey and Andrew McCabe weren’t aware the other had been selected for the same audit until a Times reporter told them. If these numbers provided by the Times are accurate then the chances of either of them being selected was miniscule in the first place.

Among tax lawyers, the most invasive type of random audit carried out by the I.R.S. is known, only partly jokingly, as “an autopsy without the benefit of death.”

The odds of being selected for that audit in any given year are tiny — out of nearly 153 million individual returns filed for 2017, for example, the I.R.S. targeted about 5,000, or roughly one out of 30,600.

One of the few who received a bureaucratic letter with the news that his 2017 return would be under intensive scrutiny was James B. Comey, who had been fired as F.B.I. director that year by President Donald J. Trump….

Two years later, the I.R.S., still under the leadership of a Trump appointee after President Biden took office, picked about 8,000 returns for the same type of audit Mr. Comey had undergone from the 154 million individual returns filed in 2019, or about one in 19,250.

Among those who were chosen to have their 2019 returns scrutinized was the man who had been Mr. Comey’s deputy at the bureau: Andrew G. McCabe, who served several months as acting F.B.I. director after Mr. Comey’s firing.

The chances of both of them being selected randomly is vanishingly small but, that said, the Times doesn’t appear to have anything besides the odds to offer. In fact, the paper doesn’t seem entirely certain how the process works.

Was it sheer coincidence that two close associates would randomly come under the scrutiny of the same audit program within two years of each other? Did something in their returns increase the chances of their being selected? Could the audits have been connected to criminal investigations pursued by the Trump Justice Department against both men, neither of whom was ever charged?

Or did someone in the federal government or at the I.R.S. — an agency that at times, like under the Nixon administration, was used for political purposes but says it has imposed a range of internal controls intended to thwart anyone from improperly using its powers — corrupt the process?…

How taxpayers get selected for the program of intensive audits — known as the National Research Program — is closely held. The I.R.S. is prohibited by law from discussing specific cases, further walling off from scrutiny the type of audit Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe faced…

Former I.R.S. officials and tax lawyers said that given the array of reforms imposed on the agency after the Watergate scandal, they believed it would be difficult for a president or an appointee to direct an audit at a political opponent.

Again, the chances of this happening randomly are ridiculous but before we move on to accusing anyone of manipulating the IRS we should rule out all the alternatives. For instance, I seem to recall from previous IRS scandals that in some cases the agency decides to audit people who attract enough attention in the news media. I have no idea if that sort of thing is possible with this particular type of audit but we ought to at least ask before leaping to conclusions.

The results of the two audits weren’t significant. After a year Comey was found to have overpaid and was given a small refund of about $350 while McCabe owed the IRS a small amount which he paid. McCabe told the Times the auditor he dealt with was always professional and didn’t seem out to get him, though he still has questions about why he was selected in the first place.

The Times has already asked Trump about this and his response, though a spokesperson, was “I have no knowledge of this.” Of course no one on the left will believe that.

Given the odds involved some further investigation is warranted. That will most likely come from the Treasury Inspector General.