Updated Nov 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

John Kelly says Trump wanted to "get the IRS on" James Comey

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Legacy Sports USA on October 09, 2022 in Mesa, Arizona.

Former President Trump during an October rally in Mesa, Arizona. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Former President Trump wanted to use government agencies to investigate his adversaries during his term in office, ex-White House chief of staff John Kelly alleged to the New York Times Sunday. Trump denies the allegations.

Driving the news: Kelly told the NYT Trump said they should "get the IRS on" former FBI chief James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe and discussed using the Department of Justice to investigate foes including Hillary Clinton and Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, whose reports angered the former president.

Why it matters: The Internal Revenue Service said in July that it asked the Department of Treasury's Inspector General to investigate the tax audits of Comey and McCabe, a rare move that the IRS maintained was random.

  • "Trump's demands were part of a broader pattern of him trying to use the Justice Department and his authority as president against people who had been critical of him, including seeking to revoke the security clearances of former top intelligence officials," according to the NYT.

What he's saying: "The U.S. government, whether it's the IRS or the Justice Department, should never be weaponized or used to retaliate, and certainly not because someone criticizes you in the press or is your political opponent," said Kelly, who was Trump's chief of staff from July 2017 to the end of 2018, in a written response to the NYT.

  • "The average federal employee or FBI agent or I.R.S. agent goes to work and executes the laws and regulations and shouldn’t be put in this position," added Kelly, who was also Trump's first homeland security secretary.

Flashback: The former president fired Comey in 2017 as the FBI's investigation into allegations of ties between Trump associates and Russia intensified.

  • Trump has had a long-running feud with his 2016 presidential election rival, Clinton. A judge last week issued monetary sanctions against his lawyers for what he called their "frivolous" failed lawsuit against Clinton and other Democrats.
  • Strzok and Page exchanged private text messages, some of which criticized Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump lashed out at Kelly in 2020 after the retired Marine four-star general unleashed broad criticism of his policy decisions. Kelly also criticized Trump for not immediately publicly conceding his presidential election loss to President Biden.

The other side: "It's total fiction created by a psycho, John Kelly, who never said this before, and made it up just because he’s become so irrelevant," Liz Harrington, a spokesperson for Trump, told the NYT.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details of former White House chief of staff John Kelly's allegations and further context.

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