According to administration official Lynne Patton, President Trump believes the tax exempt status of the Church of Scientology should be revoked.
In a report that’s part attempted hit-piece on the Trump administration and part exposé on the sketchy tax dealings of Hollywood’s most influential cult, the Huffington Post details a back and forth between Patton, a “loyal family aide” and Department of Housing and Urban Development official, and “King of Queens” star Leah Remini, a former Scientologist who wants to see the infamously secretive organization brought to justice:
In an unsolicited Twitter message, Lynne Patton, who has worked for the Trump family since 2009, told actress Leah Remini of Trump’s position and said she would interface with the IRS directly to seek more information in an effort to initiate revocation. Remini sent HuffPost copies of Patton’s messages and has declined to comment further.
It’s not clear if Patton ever communicated with the IRS. But if Trump did express an opinion on the church and Patton did contact the IRS about it, as her message suggests, that would be a highly inappropriate level of interference with the IRS by the administration, one expert said.
In a series of messages beginning in late May between Patton and Remini, the administration official told the actress and producer that she was moved by her A&E docu-series which exposes the alleged abuses of the Church of Scientology, which Remini left in 2013 after being deeply involved for years.
HuffPost reports that Patton first reached out to Remini, with the actress responding, “Hi Lynne would love any help you can give.”
“From The moment I saw your series I told President Trump & his family we needed to revoke their tax exempt status. They couldn’t agree more, but please don’t publicize that yet,” wrote Patton. “I want to do more due diligence on what the IRS has attempted in the past (or maybe you can enlighten me), then I’ll identify who we need to connect with again.”
Patton followed up her message with a promise that she will “die trying” to get the tax exempt status of the organization revoked: “This is going to get done in the next 4 years or I’ll die trying. Knock on wood!”
The next day Patton responded to Remini’s email offering help by saying she needs to do some more research into Scientology’s history with the IRS but was committed to ending “this ongoing nightmare and blatant misuse of our IRS rules & regulations”:
I look forward to doing my part to help put an end to this ongoing nightmare and blatant misuse of our IRS rules & regulations. … I want to do more research on Scientology’s history with the IRS, to date, so that I can better understand what tactics have been applied and where we can pick up. Would you have any of this information handy? If not, I will obtain it from the agency directly, Kindly advise!
Patton sent an email in early June saying she needed to wait until “things calm down about [James] Comey, etc.” until she could further pursue the tax exemption issue. That was the last Remini has heard from Patton.
“Months later, Patton would be photographed publicly with a Scientologist who has quickly risen up the ranks in Trump world,” HuffPost notes.
In its attempt to turn the exchange into a scandal, HuffPost also underscores that if a White House official did in fact contact the IRS about the organization, “IRS employees are required to document it and report it to the Office of the Inspector General.” So far, no word on whether or not any contact was made or documented.
As for the Church of Scientology and its tax-exempt status, that’s a long, convoluted story that involves the church obtaining it in the late ’50s, losing it a decade later, then fighting for over two decades to get it back. After a 26-year bitter feud with the IRS, the organization secured their tax exemption, which has allowed the organization to acquire even more wealth and influence and shroud itself even further from public scrutiny.