Matt Taibbi, an independent journalist who reported on collusion between government agencies and former executives of Twitter, was visited by an IRS official on the same day he testified before Congress about the weaponization of the federal government.
Several installments of the Twitter Files, a set of internal documents Twitter CEO Elon Musk provided to Taibbi and other handpicked reporters, indicate that the platform had multiple ways of silencing conservatives, such as shadow bans and outright suspensions. IRS agents appeared at Taibbi’s residence in New Jersey on March 9, the same day he testified before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
The agent left a note instructing him to call the agency four days later; Taibbi was informed during the call that his 2018 and 2021 tax returns were rejected over identity theft concerns.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) sent a letter on Monday, which was seen by the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel demanding information about the home visit.
Taibbi provided the House Judiciary Committee with documents proving his IRS return from 2018 had been electronically accepted; the agency and his accountants had not told him about any concerns with the filing over the past five years. The return from 2021 was rejected, refiled, and then rejected for a second time. Taibbi said the issue with the return was not “monetary.”
Dealing with the IRS can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Worries about increased audit rates have emerged over the past several months after the Inflation Reduction Act provided the agency with an $80 billion windfall to double the size of its workforce.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board noted that the IRS typically starts with a letter or a request for information from the taxpayer rather than a surprise house call.
Michael Shellenberger, another independent journalist behind the Twitter Files initiative who testified before lawmakers on March 9, quipped on social media that the sudden IRS visit was an “amazing coincidence.” Taibbi said he would not comment on the matter pending an answer to the letter, although he added that he is “not worried” for himself.
Various editions of the Twitter Files published by Taibbi indicate federal agencies, particularly the FBI, contacted Twitter about the censorship of so many posts that employees congratulated each other in internal company communications for the “monumental undertaking” of reviewing them. “Federal intelligence and law enforcement reach into Twitter included the Department of Homeland Security, which partnered with security contractors and think tanks to pressure Twitter to moderate content,” Taibbi recounted in one report.
Democratic lawmakers on the subcommittee accused Taibbi and Shellenberger of improperly colluding with Musk to advance the entrepreneur’s interests, demanding they provide information about their sources, which is broadly considered a violation of the right to freedom of the press.
Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-USVI) asked for the name of the “individual that gave you permission to access the emails,” while Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) asked for the date on which Musk purportedly approached the journalists regarding the initiative. Jordan accused his colleagues of attempting to pressure the reporters, calling the effort “a violation of the First Amendment.”