WASHINGTON — The White House declined to comment Wednesday on an IRS agent’s visit to journalist Matt Taibbi’s home on the same day that he testified to a House subcommittee investigating the “weaponization” of government.
The surprise March 9 door-knock came as the “Twitter Files” collaborator described his reporting on how the government pressured social media platforms to censor online speech.
The Post asked at the first White House press briefing since the news of the visit broke Monday about whether the visit was “part of a campaign to harass or intimidate [Taibbi] related to his journalism.”
White House spokesman John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, declined to provide a substantive reply.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to refer you to the IRS,” he said succinctly. The IRS didn’t immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, whose department includes the IRS, also was pressed for answers Wednesday by House lawmakers.
“What are the chances of that being just luck?” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) asked Yellen of the timing of the visit.
“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 miniscule. I think it’s one in a million or less,” Stewart said.
“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.”
Taibbi said that the IRS agent who visited his New Jersey home left a note instructing him to call the tax bureau four days later.
When he did, an IRS agent reportedly told him that his returns for 2018 and 2021 had been rejected due to identity theft concerns.
The former Rolling Stone journalist turned Substack publisher insisted that he doesn’t owe taxes and that, in fact, the agency owes him a “considerable” amount.
Taibbi reportedly gave the House Judiciary Committee documents showing that his 2018 tax return was electronically accepted and the March intervention was the first time in more than four years that he had been told it was rejected.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) demanded Monday that the IRS hand over all documents relating to the visit by April 10, including “[a]ll documents and communications between or among the IRS, Treasury Department, and any other Executive Branch entity referring or relating to Matthew Taibbi.”
Taibbi’s testimony concerning federal pressure on Twitter to censor content was marked by Democratic attacks. Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-USVI) accused him of being a “so-called journalist” in one widely circulated exchange.
“I’ve been a reporter for 30 years,” Taibbi retorted. “Ranking member Plaskett, I’m not a ‘so-called journalist.’ I’ve won the National Magazine award, the I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism and I’ve written 10 books, including four New York Times best-sellers.”
Taibbi in December began publishing information on historical government censorship in collaboration with Twitter prior to Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform in October.
The “Twitter Files” detailed frequent federal pressure on the social network to censor content alleged to be misinformation or from purported foreign sources. The FBI paid Twitter nearly $3.5 million to process its moderation requests from October 2019 to February 2021, according to one document.
President Biden virtually addressed world leaders Wednesday as part of a so-called White House Summit for Democracy, saying at one point that countries should be “better protecting activists and journalists from cyber-threats, harassment and abuse.”