While in the White House, former President Donald Trump repeatedly wanted to use the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate his political enemies, former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told the New York Times over the weekend.
Two of the primary figures Trump wanted investigated, Kelly said, were former FBI director James Comey and former FBI official Andrew McCabe, whom Trump often sparred with throughout his presidency. Perhaps most notably, Trump ranted both publicly and privately about the two men and their roles in the investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia. Trump even fired Comey in 2017.
The Times reported over the summer that both Comey and McCabe were the subjects of “a rare and highly intrusive” audit after Kelly left the White House staff. Comey’s 2017 tax returns were audited, and McCabe’s 2019 returns were audited at a time when the IRS was headed by a Trump political appointee.
Trump has said that he knew nothing of these audits, and officials have also insisted that both Comey and McCabe were selected randomly. Earlier this year, however, the IRS asked its inspector general to investigate these audits.
Kelly also told the Times that in discussing the potential audits with the former president, he made it clear that there were legal and ethical issues surrounding what Trump was asking for.
In addition to Comey and McCabe, Kelly also said that Trump discussed using the IRS and the Justice Department to investigate former CIA director John O. Brennan and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He also wanted to open an investigation into Jeff Bezos, who in addition to being the founder of Amazon, owns The Washington Post, whose coverage often angered the former president.
A spokesperson for Trump has since denied that he ever discussed using the IRS against his political opponents.
Kelly told the Times that he chose to come forward with these claims because Trump publicly claimed last week that he had used the Justice Department and the FBI to help Gov. Ron DeSantis win his election in Florida in 2018. Kelly denies this and says it would have been an improper use of the two entities.
This is hardly the first time the former president has abused his power. Most notably, Trump incited the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, tried to subvert the 2020 election results, and frequently sought to use the Justice Department against his opponents. Kelly also told the Times that Trump insisted on revoking security clearances for officials from the George W. Bush and Obama administrations who had been critical of him on television.
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