The two bipartisan sessions are set to be held behind closed doors, according to two people familiar with the matter, who confirmed the meetings on the condition of anonymity given the legal sensitivity. The privacy is necessary because the IRS is limited by law from publicly disclosing information about specific taxpayers, the sources said.
The House plans to hold its gathering this week, while the Senate is expected to question Rettig in the coming weeks. The IRS said in a statement that Rettig “always welcomes the chance to meet with members on tax issues and routinely flags areas of potential concern for key leaders of congressional oversight committees.”
IRS chief faces questions over audits of Trump foes
The two panels’ leaders — Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — previously have called on the inspector general overseeing the IRS to open its own probe. Rettig similarly has referred the matter to his agency’s watchdog, while his spokespeople have maintained that the IRS commissioner was not aware of any political interference and had no conversations about it with Trump, who first appointed him to the post in 2018.
“He has been committed to running the IRS in an impartial, unbiased manner from top to bottom,” IRS spokeswoman Jodie Reynolds said last week.
Wyden, meanwhile, said in an interview this weekend that his panel is “going to have our own inquiry,” adding: “We’re going to do what it takes to get to the bottom of this.”
“These are very troubling matters, and that’s part of our essential oversight function.”
In a letter last week, Neal described the allegations as “alarming,” urging the IRS watchdog — the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, known as TIGTA — to determine if Rettig or other top staff had prior knowledge that the agency had subjected Comey and McCabe to extensive tax reviews.
Those audits, conducted under an initiative known as the National Research Program, are painstaking and rare. Roughly 15,000 taxpayers are chosen randomly for review each year, the fact that left some lawmakers and former IRS officials troubled to learn that Comey and McCabe were both chosen among millions of Americans within a few years of each other.
By firing his enemies, Trump made their taxes more interesting to the IRS
In recent days, Comey has questioned the potential for political motivations given his role in investigating Trump, his 2016 campaign and allegations that the president obstructed justice.
“Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe somebody misused the IRS 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,” he said in an earlier statement.
Trump had regularly attacked the former FBI director and his top deputy, McCabe, though the former president has maintained he has “no knowledge of this.” In a statement, Trump nonetheless pointed to an earlier report from an inspector general at the Justice Department that criticized the two men.
The developments have added to the pressure on Rettig, whose term is set to expire later this year. Some Democrats have called on him to resign in recent days. For its part, the White House repeatedly has declined to say if Biden would reappoint Rettig — or even if the president has confidence in the IRS commissioner.
“I’m going to say that he is up in November,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last week. “He is a commissioner. … He is the commissioner of the IRS, part of the administration. So we’re going to — I’m just going to leave it at that.”
Congress seeks IRS probe amid suspicions that audits targeted Trump foes