Yellen Claims She Still Does Not Know Who Stole Thousands of Private IRS Files

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Posted by ATR on Tuesday, November 30th, 2021, 3:50 PM PERMALINK

[See Also: Here's your handy cheat sheet on the Big Dem Tax and Spend Bill]

As the Biden administration seeks a dramatic increase in the size and power of the IRS, today Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she still does not know who stole the private taxpayer files of thousands of Americans, or who gave the files to the progressive group, ProPublica. The files cover at least 15 years worth of data, described by ProPublica as "a vast trove."

Yellen said: “We don’t know what the source of the leak of that information was, and I would say it’s premature to indicate that it came from the IRS.” 

It doesn't seem like there is a sense of urgency to get to the bottom of things. Meanwhile Democrats push for more IRS power, more IRS agents, more IRS audits.

When the existence of the "trove" was announced on June 8, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said under oath that an investigation was already underway:

I can confirm that there is an investigation with respect to the allegations that the source of the information in that article came from the Internal Revenue Service. Upon reviewing the article, the appropriate contacts were made as you would expect. And the investigators will investigate." (1:08:12)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) followed up and asked (1:09:42):

"When you said that you are investigating this ProPublica release of secret IRS files, I assume that if your investigation finds a violation of the law, you are going to see that people are prosecuted, is that right?"

Rettig replied:

"Absolutely."

It's been nearly six months, and still there is nothing but radio silence, all while the American people are supposed to just shrug and accept the imposition of enormous new IRS powers -- including bank account snooping -- as proposed by Democrats in their tax and spend blowout bill. Over the decades, the IRS has proven to be unable or unwilling to safeguard taxpayer data.

Here is a timeline of Yellen's statements on the matter:

June 16, 2021

(1:21:38) Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.): "Just last week the IRS had one of the most widespread breaches in the agency's history in order to advance a political agenda. This apparent leak -- a targeted leak, a targeted attack I should say -- on a select few Americans undermines the confidence in the agency and goes to the heart of public trust between taxpayers and the IRS's ability to safeguard private information. Can you tell me how the Treasury and the IRS hold individuals accountable who broke federal law by sharing confidential tax information, tax returns, and will you commit to updating me on what steps the administration has taken to ensure this doesn't happen again, and can you maybe tell us what steps you have taken so far?"

Janet Yellen: "Yes. This was a very serious situation that I and the Treasury Department take very seriously, the protection of government data. We've referred this matter to the Treasury Inspector General, and to the Department of Justice. The IRS commissioner is looking into the matter, as is the Treasury's Inspector General for Tax Administration. But we are only one week out on this. And I really want to emphasize, we do not know what happened. We don't have any facts at this point. I promise to keep you updated on what we find. But it is absolutely top priority to safeguard taxpayer data. When we see the results of the investigations that are done, if there are actions that we need to take to shore up the protection of this information, you have my absolute word that we will do so and we will keep you and congress informed on what we are doing, and what we are finding on this."

June 23, 2021 (44:00) Janet Yellen: “Let me just say one final word about the IRS. Many of you have expressed concern about the recent ProPublica report. I am deeply troubled by it as well. And it’s important to stress that an unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information is a crime and that it has been referred to the FBI, federal prosecutors, and Treasury Department oversight authorities. We don’t yet know what occurred, but all is being done to get to the bottom of this criminal activity and we will be sure to update you as we learn more.” 

September 28, 2021 (2:13:12) Janet Yellen: “Protecting taxpayer information is the highest priority of the Internal Revenue Service. The ProPublica information represented an illegal revelation of taxpayer information. It’s an illegal act. And it is being investigated thoroughly by independent entities, law enforcement, and the inspector generals of Treasury and the IRS. And there really can’t be tolerance for that.”

“Just to be clear: we do not know that the ProPublica information came from the IRS. That hasn’t been established.”

September 30, 2021 Rep. David Kustoff (R -Tenn): “How did ProPublica publish and obtain the information from the IRS about taxpayer information?”

Janet Yellen: “Independent agencies and law enforcement are currently looking into that and attempting to figure out how that occurred. That is clearly a crime and an utterly unacceptable thing and it will be prosecuted when it’s understood.”

November 30, 2021 Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn): "Secretary Yellen, I’ll turn to another topic that we’ve discussed before back in September. We talked about the leak of confidential taxpayer information to ProPublica that was done in early 2021 for political purposes. You testified then that it’s an illegal act, that it’s being investigated thoroughly, and there can’t be any tolerance for that. You and I agreed on that. So given that testimony, I want to ask you; have the leakers been identified?"

Janet Yellen: “There are independent agencies, both within Treasury, the inspector General, also the FBI and DOJ, that are conducting investigations. We’re not privy, nothing has been reported out yet from those investigations that I’m aware of, but I believe those investigations are moving forward”

Sen. Hagerty: "Well, I take that as no update, but after the Lois Lerner scandal, after the scandal that occurred here in 2021 under this administration’s watch, I appreciate the fact that there’s an investigation underway, but I would say this. Until we have the results of that investigation, until we have true accountability, I cannot imagine how the Biden administration is encouraging what is in effect a ten times increase in the audit capacity of the IRS when there’s no accountability there. This is the D.C. swamp at its best."

Janet Yellen: “We don’t know what the source of the leak of that information was, and I would say it’s premature to indicate that it came from the IRS.” 

Photo Credit: Federalreserve

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