A prominent independent journalist who has worked doggedly to expose government overreach online received an unexpected visit from the Internal Revenue Service earlier this month. The IRS happened to darken Matt Taibbi's doorstep the same day he testified before Congress about the weaponization of the federal government.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is demanding accountability as it pertains to this apparent statist "attempt to intimidate a witness before Congress."
What's the background?
Taibbi has been instrumental in the curation and publication of the Twitter Files, which have served to expose the exertion of control by the federal government over speech and information online in recent years.
In one instance, he detailed the "constant and pervasive" communications between Twitter and the FBI concerning what narratives to quash and what claims to censor. He also documented the efforts of California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff's office to silence the free press and remove unfavorable content on the platform.
On March 9, Taibbi testified before the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
The purpose of the committee, according to its chairman, Rep. Jordan, is to investigate recent violations of Americans' First Amendment rights by the federal government as well as the Biden administration's apparent bias against conservatives.
Taibbi told the committee that whereas the "original promise of the internet was that it might democratize the exchange of information globally ... what we found is in the [Twitter] files was a sweeping effort to reverse that promise and use machine learning and other tools to turn the internet into an instrument of censorship and social control. Unfortunately, our own government appears to be playing a lead role."
TheBlaze previously reported that Democrats on the subcommittee were highly adversarial with Taibbi present. In addition to belittling Taibbi and intimating that he was involved in sexcapades with his peers, House Democrats, including Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), pressured the journalist to reveal his sources.
An emissary with impeccable timing
While Democrats impotently attacked Taibbi during the hearing, other elements of the political establishment reportedly prepared to make their power known.
According to Jordan, an IRS agent turned up at Taibbi's New Jersey home on the day of the hearing, "unannounced and unprompted." The agent reportedly left a note instructing Taibbi to call the IRS days later.
When Taibbi spoke to the agent, he was told "that both his 2018 and 2021 tax returns had been rejected owing to concerns over identity theft."
Taibbi reportedly provided the committee with evidence that his 2018 return had been electronically accepted and that there had previously been no word of trouble about his tax filings.
"When did the IRS start to dispatch agents for surprise house calls? Typically when the IRS challenges some part of a tax return, it sends a dunning letter. Or it might seek more information from the taxpayer or tax preparer. If the IRS wants to audit a return, it schedules a meeting at the agent’s office. It doesn’t drop by unannounced," wrote the Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
"The curious timing of this visit, on the heels of the FTC demand that Twitter turn over names of journalists, raises questions about potential intimidation," the editorial board added.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk responded, noting, "That's very odd."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) reckoned it was more than odd, tweeting, "This absolutely stinks to high heaven. The IRS has a troubling history of targeting the political enemies of Democrats. The IRS should NEVER be in the business of harassing the American people."
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, responded, "Gangster government."
Auditing the auditors
Rep. Jim Jordan penned a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel Monday demanding answers about what he indicated "could be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate a witness before Congress."
Jordan noted that this interpretation may be apt in light of the "IRS's history as a tool of government abuse" — citing its hounding of conservatives during the Obama administration" — and the "hostile reaction to Mr. Taibbi's reporting among left-wing activists."
The subcommittee chairman requested that Yellen and Werfel provide all IRS, Treasury, or executive branch documents and communications pertaining to the IRS' field visit to Taibbi's residence as well as to the journalist himself by April 10.
Concerning Jordan's push for accountability concerning these "incredible" circumstances, the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote, "Mr. Jordan is right to want to see documents and communications relating to the Taibbi visit. The fear of many Americans is that, flush with its new $80 billion in funding from Congress, the IRS will unleash its fearsome power against political opponents. Mr. Taibbi deserves to know why the agency decided to pursue him with a very strange house call."
Taibbi tweeted on Monday, "For those asking, I don’t want to comment on the IRS issue pending an answer to chairman @Jim_Jordan’s letter. I’m not worried for myself, but I did feel the Committee should be aware of the situation."
Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government Hearing on the Twitter Filesyoutu.be
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