The I.R.S. said on Thursday that its commissioner, Charles P. Rettig, had asked the inspector general who oversees tax matters to research how James B. Comey, the previous F.B.I. director, and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe — each perceived enemies of former President Donald J. Trump — got here to be faced with rare, exhaustive audits that the agency says are imagined to be random.
“The I.R.S. has referred the matter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for review,” the agency said in a written statement, adding that Mr. Rettig had “personally reached out” to the inspector general’s office after learning concerning the audits.
The disclosure from the I.R.S. got here a day after The Latest York Times reported that Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe had been the topics of audits that focus on just several thousand Americans a 12 months and are highly invasive.
In response to the story, Democrats also called for an inspector general’s investigation. They raised questions on whether Mr. Trump — who has a protracted history of attempting to use the federal government for his political means — had played a task in ordering the audits. Each audits were conducted during a time when Mr. Rettig, who was appointed by Mr. Trump in 2018 to a term that’s scheduled to run out in November, was running the agency.
“Donald Trump has no respect for the rule of law,” said the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, “so if he tried to subject his political enemies to additional I.R.S. scrutiny, that may surprise nobody. We’d like to grasp what happened here since it raises serious concerns.”
A spokesman for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration didn’t return an email searching for comment about whether the inspector general had begun an investigation.
Under federal law, it is prohibited for any official or worker in the chief branch — with a number of narrow exceptions — to ask for the I.R.S. to audit or conduct an investigation of somebody’s taxes. If an I.R.S. worker learns of such a request, the worker is required to report it to the inspector general. Defendants found to have violated the law can withstand five years in prison.
On the White House, the press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, sidestepped questions on whether President Biden, who had decided to maintain Mr. Rettig in place as I.R.S. commissioner when he took office, had confidence in him to run the agency fairly.
“I’m going to say that he’s up in November,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.
In 2017, the tax 12 months Mr. Comey was audited for, the I.R.S. says it randomly chosen about 5,000 returns for the audit out of the 153 million individuals who filed them. For 2019, the 12 months Mr. McCabe was audited for, the agency says its picked about 8,000 returns of the roughly 154 million that were filed.
It just isn’t clear how two close associates each got here to be scrutinized under the identical audit program in a matter of a number of years. Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe each told The Times that they’d questions on how the audits had come about.
Mr. Trump said he had no knowledge of the audits. The I.R.S. has denied that any wrongdoing occurred.
“Federal privacy laws preclude us from discussing specific taxpayer situations,” the I.R.S. said in a press release released Thursday. “Audits are handled by profession civil servants, and the I.R.S. has strong safeguards in place to guard the exam process — and against politically motivated audits. It’s ludicrous and unfaithful to suggest that senior I.R.S. officials by some means targeted specific individuals for National Research Program audits.”
Former I.R.S. officials and tax lawyers said that because Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe were attacked so often by Mr. Trump — who pushed for his or her prosecutions and accused them of treason — an inspector general or congressional committee should investigate the matter.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts, sent a letter to the inspector general, J. Russell George, asking for an investigation.
“The American people must have full faith within the I.R.S. and the fair administration of our tax laws,” Mr. Neal said. “I’m very concerned concerning the impact on public confidence resulting from allegations that the I.R.S. has been used to exact revenge on political enemies.”
Mr. Neal asked the inspector general to research whether the audits were truly random, whether Mr. Trump’s political appointees or staff members played a task in the choice process and who on the I.R.S. or the Treasury Department can add or remove taxpayers from the list of those chosen for the audit.
The rating member on the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas, said that he supported investigating all allegations of political targeting on the I.R.S. after which sought to link the problem to criticism Republicans had directed on the tax agency under Democratic administrations.
“As we learned from the repeated targeting of conservative groups and the damaging leaking of personal tax returns under the Obama and Biden administrations, the I.R.S. should never be used as a weapon against political opponents,” Mr. Brady said.
A longtime critic of Mr. Rettig, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of Latest Jersey, who has previously called on Mr. Rettig to resign over unrelated issues, reiterated that demand on Thursday.
“The I.R.S. under Donald Trump’s handpicked commissioner Charles Rettig has been one catastrophe after one other,” said Mr. Pascrell, who’s the chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight. “The auditing of two law enforcement leaders at Trump’s behest is a titanic scandal.”
Mr. Pascrell added: “If Mr. Rettig cared in any respect about this agency, he would hand in his resignation today. And if he doesn’t go, Mr. Rettig must be impeached.”
Chris Cameron and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.