Federal employee warned of ‘possible misconduct’ with IRS audit program

The House Ways and Means Committee received information from a federal employee at the end of July alleging that there was “possible misconduct” and “inappropriate efforts to influence” the Presidential audit program, according to a letter from the committee’s chairman.

Committee Chairman Richard Neal is suing the US Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service to obtain six years of President Donald Trump tax returns as well as records from several of his business entities. The Presidential tax audit program, conducted by the IRS, automatically audits every incoming President’s taxes and Neal has argued that he wants the records to make sure the Presidential tax audit program is working properly or if necessary make legislative fixes.

Trump and his defenders have argued there is no legislative purpose for the committee to have access to Trump’s returns and that Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, is only interested in getting information that could be damaging to the President.

Neal wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about the complaint, and included a version of the letter in an August court document.

Neal said in his letter to Mnuchin that the allegation underscores the need for oversight of the program. The House has argued it needs the information to understand how the Presidential audit program, which is not enshrined in law and is shrouded in mystery, is carried out. Democrats argue that any allegation that the program was carried out differently under Trump could bolster the House’s case.

“On July 29, 2019, the Committee received an unsolicited communication from a Federal employee setting forth credible allegations of ‘evidence of possible misconduct’-specifically, potential ‘inappropriate efforts to influence’ the mandatory audit program,” Neal wrote in his letter to Mnuchin dated August 8. “This is a grave charge that appreciably heightens the Committee’s concerns about the absence of appropriate safeguards as part of the mandatory audit program and whether statutory codification of such program or other remedial, legislative measures are warranted.”

The allegation, which came in a little-noticed court filing as part of the ongoing fight in court for Trump’s tax returns, has come under renewed scrutiny following a separate whistleblower from the intelligence community who issued a complaint charging that the President had used his office “to solicit interference” from Ukraine in the upcoming 2020 election and then that the White House took steps to conceal the efforts.

“I can’t get into the specifics of the whistleblower because that’s something Chairman Neal will have to address, but it is clear that the information that we are getting strengthens our concern and our argument that the President may not be subjected to the laws that the IRS is supposed to enforce,” said Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan and a member of the House Ways and Means committee, in an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “Newsroom” Tuesday.

The administration previously told the Committee that no individual would face backlash for carrying out an audit, but Neal wrote in his letter to Mnuchin that “the allegations received by the Committee cast doubt on this statement and underscore the pressing need for complete and meaningful oversight of the mandatory audit program.”

Trump has for years repeatedly refused to release his tax returns — dating back to his days before he was in office and on the campaign trail — breaking with decades of precedent of presidential candidates from both parties releasing tax returns as well as other personal financial documents.

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