The IRS employee who emerged as a second whistleblower on Donald Trump has declined to provide a transcribed interview to the Republican Senate Finance Committee. The employee had first contacted the House Ways and Means Committee about concerns that at least one political appointee in the Treasury Department had tried to interfere in a routine annual audit of Donald Trump’s or Mike Pence’s tax returns.
These presidential and vice presidential audits are supposed to be walled off from political appointees and political influence. The whistleblower has talked with bipartisan Finance Committee staff, but has declined the formal interview “after an official informed the whistleblower that it could be considered a violation of IRS code to provide the committee with any information related to an individual taxpayer,” a source told CNN. The employee could be fined, fired, or “even jailed for disclosing taxpayer information” under IRS code.
The Treasury Department declined to comment to CNN, but it seems that this opens up another line of questioning for Congress: Has an IRS official interfered to prevent the whistleblower from moving forward, and is that official a career or political appointee? It’s unclear whether this whistleblower is protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act. Federal employees whose service is deemed to be of a “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character” aren’t covered by the protections of the law, and this person could be in the “confidential” category.
The IRS inspector general is conducting an investigation into the core of the whistleblower’s complaint and whether political appointees interfered in the House Ways and Means Committee’s request for Trump’s tax returns. Maybe the IG should also be checking into whether the whistleblower is being intimidated.