Journalist Matt Taibbi dropped some important information about the government’s involvement in the suppression of news (and speech) with the Twitter files. Then, just as he was testifying before Congress about what he had discovered, the IRS showed up on his doorstep.
That visit — and particularly its timing — raised a lot of questions. But the details that have emerged so far “raise more questions than they answer,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) said in a letter to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel that was released on Wednesday.
The IRS claimed that they had been looking into Taibbi’s 2018 tax return to make sure that he wasn’t the victim of identity fraud and sent him two letters that he and his accountant says he never got on October 24 — nine days after he filed his return — and March 23, 2020.
The IRS then claimed that they opened an examination into Taibbi’s tax return on Dec. 24, 2022 — Christmas Eve and a Saturday — making no effort to contact him until they showed up on his doorstep on March 9, 2023, three years after their alleged last letter and the very day he was appearing before Congress.
[B]ut it also happened to be three weeks after he published the first Twitter Files detailing government abuses and the same day that Mr. Taibbi published the ninth segment of the Twitter Files, detailing how federal government agencies “from the State Department to the Pentagon to the CIA” coordinated to censor and coerce speech on various social media platforms. It is unclear from the documents alone why the IRS opened its examination of Mr. Taibbi’s tax return on such an unusual date or whether it coincided intentionally with Mr. Taibbi’s reporting about government censorship.
Not only wasn’t there any identity fraud or whatever the IRS was claiming out there, but indeed, they failed to produce these “purported letters” that they claim they wrote to Taibbi, or explain why they opened a case, to begin with, or why they went to his home. Yikes, can it get any worse?
When they showed up at his house, he was testifying so he wasn’t there. They left a message telling him to call them. When he contacted them they said his returns for 2018 and 2021 had been rejected due to identity theft concerns.
As Taibbi observed to Fox’s John Roberts: “[The IRS examination] was a three-year-old case, and I didn’t owe them any money. So all of those factors combined to make the optics of this really strange. You would wonder what supervisor would be calling an agent on a Saturday and asking him to come into work to open up a case.”
On top of it all, not only didn’t Taibbi owe any taxes, he was entitled to a “substantial refund,” according to the letter from Jordan and they closed the matter against him on March 23.
Jordan brought up the history of targeting by the IRS in the past. He is now demanding more records in the letter to clarify what the IRS was doing — any documents or communications related to these decisions on Taibbi’s case by June 7.
Taibbi believes it was political at this point.
But now I don’t think there’s really a whole lot of doubt that this was somehow politically motivated. At least it has the appearance of that. And I think they need to answer some questions about why they made this decision.
[I]t’s hard not to see [my case] as some kind of retaliation or an attempt to intimidate. Maybe not me, but future reporters who would look at this kind of material.
It’s hard to disagree. When has any government agency ever done anything on December 24th on a Saturday? And then they can’t produce the letters? What the heck do they take us for? And you show up on someone’s doorstep for something this inconsequential? None of it makes any sense unless they pulled a bad intimidation move and are now trying to backtrack. The concerning thing is that they thought they could do this — that itself shows you how deep the problem goes.