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The other whistleblower controversy dogging Team Trump

The intelligence community whistleblower is one thing, the IRS whistleblower with concerns about Trump's tax returns is something else.
The White House is seen under dark rain clouds in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty)
The White House is seen under dark rain clouds in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2015. 

Rachel sat down with Stephen Colbert this week, and the host asked about other major stories of note that the public isn't necessarily hearing about because of the focus on Donald Trump's impeachment crisis. Their exchange reminded me that I hadn't yet written about a story I've been meaning to mention.

MADDOW: There's another whistleblower.COLBERT: Whaaa? What is this other whistleblower?MADDOW: The intelligence community whistleblower who came forward that led to this impeachment scandal is one thing. Just before that, we got very quiet word in a court filing -- that nobody put out a press release about -- from the Ways and Means Committee that said, "By the way, we've had a whistleblower come forward to say there's been improper influence by the administration on the handling of President Trump's tax returns at the IRS." So that's the other whistleblower. We don't know what's going to happen with that.COLBERT: That is a whistle I would like to listen to.

This isn't a story that's generated a lot of attention, at least not yet, but 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 the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell noted in a column this week, 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.

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.

Meanwhile, there's an ongoing court fight underway in which the House Ways and Means Committee is demanding Trump's tax returns, which Trump and his attorneys are fighting furiously to keep secret for reasons unknown. Neal told reporters this week that the existence of the whistleblower may affect the case.

The Democratic committee chairman added that the issue surrounding the whistleblower complaint is in the hands of the House General Counsel, "and I'm probably not going to say any more about that."