House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan is probing an unannounced, in-person visit by the IRS to the home of Matt Taibbi on the same day the “Twitter Files” journalist warned of a sprawling “censorship industrial complex” in testimony before the subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government.
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel on Monday, Mr. Jordan said that while Mr. Taibbi was testifying before the committee on March 9, an IRS revenue officer appeared at Mr. Taibbi’s New Jersey residence and left a note telling him to call the agency in four days.
The IRS agent later informed Mr. Taibbi that the reason for the visit was that his tax returns from 2018 and 2021 had been rejected over concerns of identity theft, according to Mr. Jordan’s letter.
Mr. Taibbi alerted the committee to the visit and said the IRS accepted his 2018 tax return electronically more than four-and-a-half years ago, and that the IRS had not notified Mr. Taibbi that there were any issues with the return until the visit this month.
Mr. Taibbi’s 2021 return had been rejected by the IRS twice despite his accountant filing the return with an IRS-provided identification number.
In both cases, the IRS informed Mr. Taibbi that the reason for their visit was not “monetary.”
Mr. Jordan, Ohio Republican, said the unprompted visit raises questions as to whether “the visit was a thinly-veiled attempt to influence or intimidate a witness before Congress.”
“The circumstances surrounding the IRS’s unannounced and unprompted visit to Mr. Taibbi’s home, at the exact time that he was testifying to Congress about “the most serious” government abuse he has witnessed in his career as a journalist, are incredible,” Mr. Jordan wrote.
“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,” he wrote. “We expect your full cooperation with our inquiry.”
The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Taibbi said in a Twitter post on Monday that he would not comment on the matter pending an answer to Mr. Jordan’s letter.
“I’m not worried for myself, but I did feel the Committee should be aware of the situation,” he wrote.
Mr. Taibbi appeared alongside fellow journalist Michael Shellenberger before the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government in an explosive hearing that focused on the federal government’s alleged sweeping efforts to silence disfavored views.
Mr. Taibbi told the panel that while reviewing the internal documents, he “learned Twitter, Facebook, Google and other companies developed a formal system for taking in moderation requests from every corner of government.”
He added, “This is a grave threat to people of all political persuasions. The First Amendment and the American population accustomed to the right to speak is the best defense left against the censorship industrial complex. If there’s anything that Twitter Files show, it is that we’re in danger of losing this most precious right, without which all democratic rights are impossible.”
In December, the two journalists began exposing the extent to which the FBI worked with Twitter company executives to moderate content on the platform.
Those efforts included weekly meetings with Twitter executives before the company suppressed the New York Post’s 2020 report on Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop computer.
During those meetings, which included officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, Twitter executives were cued to rumors that Hunter Biden would be the target of a “hack and leak operation.”
The Post’s report, which ran on Oct. 14, 2020, set off an avalanche of embarrassing emails, photos and text messages pulled from the laptop computer. It revealed details about Hunter Biden’s struggles with addiction and his hugely profitable foreign business dealings that critics say smack of influence peddling.
The emails also refuted President Biden’s claims that he never spoke with his son about overseas business deals.
The steady drip of internal documents has also revealed Twitter’s left-wing bent that led to the censorship of conservative viewpoints and the unprecedented decision to ban a sitting president, Donald Trump, from the platform.
The two witnesses were met with sharp lines of questioning from Democrats, who chided Mr. Taibbi and Mr. Shellenberger as “Elon Musk’s public scribes” and accused them of spreading a “false narrative” of widespread government censorship.
The top Democrat on the committee, Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands, accused Republicans of “cherry-picking” evidence to attack the Biden administration.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, Florida Democrat, said the Twitter Files raised ethical concerns with how journalists “receive and present certain information.” She called the two journalists “Elon Musk’s handpicked journalists” and accused Mr. Taibbi of profiting from the series of bombshell revelations.
Republicans said the Democratic tactics of discrediting the witnesses and deriding Mr. Musk for turning over the files was part of a broader effort to suppress the Twitter Files.
Days before the hearing, the panel revealed in a 113-page report that the Federal Trade Commission demanded that Twitter identify all journalists involved in the release of the Twitter Files as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the platform.
The FTC also is requesting that Mr. Musk give his reasons for terminating former FBI official Jim Baker from his job at Twitter. It is part of more than 350 specific FTC demands laid out in 12 letters dating back to November.
The committee said the demands have no basis in the FTC’s statutory mission and appear to be the result of partisan pressure to target Twitter and silence Musk.
Mr. Taibbi called the demands “disturbing” during his testimony before the committee.
“This kind of thing, where the government is looking for information about reporters, it’s usually a canary in the coal mine that something worse is coming in terms of an effort to exercise control over the press,” he said.
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