Former President Donald Trump repeatedly told his onetime White House chief of staff, John Kelly, that he wanted the Internal Revenue Service to investigate his political foes, Kelly told The New York Times.
Among the people Trump wanted to “get the I.R.S. on” were former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Kelly told the newspaper.
“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, according to the Times.
“Yeah, but they’re writing bad things about me,” Trump responded, according to Kelly.
McCabe and Comey, both fierce critics of Trump, were ultimately selected by the Internal Revenue Service for an intensive tax audit. The Times noted earlier this year that the odds of any one person being selected for the audit are about one in 30,600, raising questions about how two of Trump’s most visible critics were both selected.
The IRS denied any “politically motivated audits” in a statement to CNN earlier this year, and Kelly told the Times he believes that he guided Trump away from seeking out such investigations during his tenure as chief of staff.
Still, the head of the IRS, Charles Rettig, asked a watchdog to investigate the decision to conduct audits on the pair earlier this year.
McCabe, now a CNN law enforcement analyst, was one of the central leaders of the early Russia investigation that pursued Trump’s advisers and questions about whether the then-president had obstructed justice.
In March 2018, two days shy of McCabe’s scheduled retirement date, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired him from the FBI.
Trump and Comey had a similarly tumultuous relationship. In a stunning move, Trump fired Comey as FBI director in May 2017, triggering the appointment of a special counsel. Trump has called Comey a “liar” and “leaker” and suggested that his actions were treasonous. Comey has bashed Trump as a stain on American democracy.
“It just defies logic to think that there wasn’t some other factor involved,” McCabe told CNN’s Laura Coates in July of his purportedly random selection for the audit, which he characterized as an “incredibly rigorous” and “nerve-wracking” process.
“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,” he continued.