By Tom Ozimek
The White House on Wednesday remained silent when asked whether a visit by an IRS agent to “Twitter Files” journalist Matt Taibbi’s home on the day he was testifying in Congress on government abuse of power was politically motivated.
Taibbi, who’s been a journalist for decades, was one of several reporters to be granted exclusive access by Elon Musk to internal Twitter communications that showed the social media giant coordinating with government and left-leaning organizations to censor content.
He, along with journalist and author Michael Shellenberger, appeared on March 9 before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, the same day that Taibbi said an IRS agent visited his private residence in New Jersey and left a note.
Since the IRS visit to Taibbi’s home came to light, there’s been blowback. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) recently questioned whether the unannounced visit amounted to intimidation of a journalist who has worked to expose government abuse.
“In light of the hostile reaction to Mr. Taibbi’s reporting among left-wing activists, and the IRS’s history as a tool of government abuse, the IRS’s action could be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate a witness before Congress,” Jordan wrote in a letter to the IRS.
An IRS spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that “federal law prohibits IRS from commenting on an individual taxpayer matter.”
White House Stonewalls
On Wednesday, a reporter raised the matter during a White House press briefing, seeking further clarification.
“The journalist Matt Taibbi, this week said that the IRS visited his home on the same day as he testified to a House Select Subcommittee on the alleged weaponization of government. Taibbi worked on the Twitter Files project that revealed government cooperation,” said a member of the White House press corps.
“I was wondering if you could respond to this Taibbi visit by the IRS and say whether this is part of a campaign to harass or intimidate him related to his journalism?”
The White House declined to provide any details.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to refer you to the IRS,” said John Kirby, the Coordination for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council (NSC).
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was also asked about the matter during Wednesday’s budget hearing of the House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.
Rep. Christ Stewart (R-Utah) asked Yellen for her thoughts on matter, suggesting that the odds that it was a random visit was “miniscule” given that it coincided with Taibbi’s testimony in Congress.
“That the IRS appeared at someone’s home while he’s testifying about the weaponization of the federal government before Congress? Because I think it’s minuscule. I think it’s one in a million or less,” Stewart said at the hearing.
“It’s certainly something that I would want to look into,” Yellen replied. “I’m not aware that IRS agents do that, except as you said, in cases where there’s an investigation for law-breaking that’s underway.”
Yellen’s Remarks Draw Reaction
Jordan, who sent a letter to the Treasury Department about the matter and gave it until April 10 to reply, responded to Yellen’s remarks in an interview on Fox News on Wednesday.
“We gave them a time in the future to get back with us. We hope they will. I’m surprised that Janet Yellen didn’t know anything about this,” Jordan said.
“This is actually a pretty big development in America, in the United States of America, where you’re not supposed to have the government being turned on the very people it’s supposed to serve, which looks like may have been what was going on here.”
“Remember, the day before Mr. Taibbi testifies, we all learned that the FTC sent a letter to Twitter asking Twitter who are the journalists you’re talking to, named Mr. Taibbi personally.”
“The very next day, he testifies and Democrat members of the committee ask him, who are your sources, give us your sources, a direct attack on the First Amendment. And while they’re asking those questions, the IRS is at his door.”
Taibbi, for his part, took to Twitter to say that he’s deferring comment on the matter until the IRS replies to Jordan’s demands.
“For those asking, I don’t want to comment on the IRS issue pending an answer to chairman @Jim_Jordan’s letter. I’m not worried for myself, but I did feel the Committee should be aware of the situation,” Taibbi said.
Shellenberger, an investigative journalist who joined Taibbi in testifying before Congress on March 9 on government abuse, remarked that the IRS agent’s visit to Taibbi’s home was highly unusual.
“While @mtaibbi & I were testifying before Congress on the weaponization of the federal government, an IRS agent showed up at his house. What an amazing coincidence,” Shellenberger wrote in a post on Twitter.
“That’s very odd,” Musk commented on Shellenberger’s tweet.