Key senators take a closer look at the other whistleblower

For many, the word "whistleblower" immediately calls to mind the official from the U.S. intelligence community. There is, however, another.
Image:
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington.Susan Walsh / AP
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By Steve Benen

As Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial has made clear, the White House's Republican allies have not lost sight of the intelligence community whistleblower who first helped shine a light on the president's Ukraine scheme. For reasons that aren't altogether clear, some GOP senators, most notably Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), seem eager to expose the whistleblower's identity and put the official at the center of an odd conspiracy theory.

We are, however, occasionally reminded that there's an entirely different whistleblower whose story hasn't gone away. The Washington Post reported this morning:

Senate investigators have conducted an extensive interview of a whistleblower at the Internal Revenue Service who has alleged improper political interference in the audit of the president or vice president, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

The whistleblower delivered transcribed remarks to staffers for Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman and highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, respectively, these people said. The interview occurred in recent weeks.

We don't yet have a sense of how that interview went and, not surprisingly, neither of the Senate Finance Committee's leaders are commenting. Though that's frustrating for those of us eager to learn more, their silence helps maintain the integrity of the process.

As for those who may need a refresher about the nature of this story, it hasn't generated a lot of attention, at least not yet, but as we've discussed, it has quite a bit of potential.

The Internal Revenue Service is responsible for conducting an annual audit of the president’s tax returns – a post-Watergate reform that’s applied to every modern president – which ordinarily wouldn’t be especially notable.

But as Rachel has explained on the show, according to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), an anonymous whistleblower over the summer offered credible allegations of “evidence of possible misconduct,” specifically “inappropriate efforts to influence” the audit of Trump’s materials.

In at least some capacity, the Senate Finance Committee continues to show an interest in the matter.

To be sure, there’s a lot about this we don’t know, and it’s tough to gauge the validity of the accusations without more information. All kinds of key details – the nature of the complaint, who allegedly acted inappropriately, how the whistleblower came to learn of the alleged misconduct, his or her possible motivations, etc. – aren’t yet available to the public.

Maybe something will come of this, maybe not. Either way, it’d be good to find out.

Update: The House Ways & Means Committee has also reportedly considered deposing the IRS whistleblower, but because of the secrecy surrounding the process, there's no public information about whether that's occurred.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog