Trump Distorts Facts in Pennsylvania Rally

FAN Moderator

As the Department of Justice investigates his handling of highly classified documents, former President Donald Trump spoke for nearly two hours in a rally in Pennsylvania that was filled with false, exaggerated and misleading statements:

  • Trump falsely claimed that DOJ used a “phony pretext” to search his Mar-a-Lago property. Trump and his staff repeatedly thwarted efforts by government officials to recover all documents for more than a year before DOJ resorted to seeking a search warrant.
  • The FBI didn’t “stage” a photo to “pretend” that Trump left classified documents on the floor of his Mar-a-Lago office. The seized documents were found in a container, but were placed on the floor so agents could photograph them as evidence, officials say.
  • Trump falsely claimed that an FBI investigation into whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia was “developed by Hillary Clinton,” his 2016 opponent. The probe was launched when a Trump campaign adviser told a foreign official that the Russians had damaging information on Clinton.
  • Trump made numerous false statements about Clinton’s use of a private server while secretary of state. There’s no evidence that Clinton’s emails were “plundered by foreign hackers” or that she deleted emails and “smashed” cell phones to destroy evidence, as Trump claimed. 
  • He repeated (and repeated) his false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged.”
  • He exaggerated both how low gasoline prices got during his presidency and how high they then became under President Joe Biden. And in any case, experts told us neither president had much to do with the price fluctuations.
  • Trump falsely claimed that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg “confessed” that Facebook censored posts in response to the FBI feeding Facebook “the false narrative that the Hunter Biden laptop from hell was Russian disinformation.” Zuckerberg said the FBI only warned Facebook officials generally about Russian propaganda.
  • He said Biden “should have never left [Afghanistan] without keeping Bagram [Air Base].” But when he was president, Trump reached an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw American forces from all bases in Afghanistan.
  • Trump falsely claimed he “ended” Nord Stream 2, a pipeline from Russia to Germany, and that Biden “opened up the pipeline.”
  • No one has authorized “87,000 IRS agents” to “carry guns” and “go after you,” as Trump claimed. The bureau may hire that many employees over the next 10 years, but the majority won’t be tax auditors or “special agents” who carry firearms, officials say.

Trump made his remarks Sept. 3 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, at a campaign rally for the state’s Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate. The rally came less than a month after FBI agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. 

No ‘Phony Pretext’ for Mar-A-Lago Search

Claim: “There could be no more vivid example of the very real threats from American freedom than just a few weeks ago, you saw it, when we witnessed one of the most shocking abuses of power by any administration in American history. The shameful raid and break in of my home, Mar-a-Lago, was a travesty of justice that made a mockery of America’s laws, traditions, and principles before the entire world. … On a phony pretext, getting permission from a highly political magistrate who they hand-picked late in the evening, just days before the break in, and trampled upon my rights and civil liberties as if our country, that we love so much, were a Third World nation. … Can you believe it?”

Facts: There was no “phony pretext” for the search warrant, which was approved by a federal magistrate judge in Florida on Aug. 5 and lawfully executed by the FBI on Aug. 8. The timeline of events shows that government records, some of them highly classified, were taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, and Trump repeatedly thwarted efforts by the National Archives and Records Administration to recover them.

NARA has said that it worked through 2021 to retrieve the records from Mar-a-Lago. In January, NARA finally received 15 boxes of records from Trump’s representatives. NARA said it “identified items marked as classified national security information” in the boxes, and a criminal referral was made to the Department of Justice. A preliminary FBI review found the boxes contained “184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET.”

The Department of Justice had reason to believe that there were more classified documents stored at Mar-a-Lago, and it issued a grand jury subpoena to Trump’s office in May seeking all documents “bearing classification markings.” At Mar-a-Lago on June 3, an attorney for Trump gave three FBI agents and a DOJ official “a single Redweld envelope” that a later review revealed contained “38 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 5 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 16 documents marked as SECRET, and 17 documents marked as TOP SECRET,” a court filing said. At that meeting, Trump’s attorney gave government agents a sworn statement that said there were no other government records at Mar-a-Lago that were responsive to the subpoena, according to a DOJ court filing. But that was not the end of it. 

After the June 3 visit to Mar-a-Lago, “the FBI uncovered multiple sources of evidence indicating that the response to the May 11 grand jury subpoena was incomplete and that classified documents remained at the Premises, notwithstanding the sworn certification made to the government on June 3,” the DOJ court filing said. “The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the [Mar-a-Lago] Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the filing said.

The Aug. 8 searched turned up more than 100 documents with classified markings: 18 marked as top secret, 54 marked as secret, 31 marked as confidential, according to an inventory of items taken from Trump’s office and a storage area at Mar-a-Lago. In addition, there were 48 “empty” folders marked as having once contained “classified” material, including 43 from Trump’s office, the inventory showed.

These were the reasons that the DOJ sought, obtained and executed a search warrant — contrary to Trump’s claim about it being the result of a “phony pretext” and “a desperate effort to distract from Joe Biden’s record of misery and failure.”

As for the claims about the judge, Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart has donated relatively small amounts to federal candidates of both parties and to McDonald Hopkins’ political action committee while working at the law firm. He was appointed a magistrate by the district court judges and received the warrant application because he was on warrant duty at the time, as explained on the National Law Journal website.

FBI Photo

Claim: “They talk about documents not being properly stored. Yet they go in and take documents, dump them on the floor, stage a photo shoot, and pretend that I had done it, like I had put them all over the floor. They took that back after a lot of prodding. Then they put out, for public consumption, a picture which is seen all over the world. This is what they do. It’s called disinformation. These are very dishonest, sick people.”

Facts: This is false. The Justice Department did not “pretend” that Trump had left the recovered documents on the floor of a room at Mar-a-Lago.

The DOJ’s Aug. 30 court filing indicates on page 13 that the classified documents and cover sheets shown in the FBI photo — which was included in the filing as an attachment — were found in a “container,” not spread across the floor.

The filing reads: “Certain of the documents had colored cover sheets indicating their classification status. See, e.g., Attachment F (redacted FBI photograph of certain documents and classified cover sheets recovered from a container in the ’45 office’).”

Unnamed Justice Department officials told the New York Times and the Washington Post that the documents were arranged on the floor and photographed by the FBI to document the evidence that had been seized in the search.

“A person familiar with the investigation confirmed to The Washington Post that arranging seized evidence for a photo is standard FBI practice in searches and investigations,” the Post reported.

Russia Investigation Triggered by Trump Campaign Aide

Claim: “I tell this story on occasion, very seldom, because it’s too sad to tell, but I tell this story because it’s very important. Russia, Russia, Russia was a hoax. It was developed by Hillary Clinton and a group of people, small group around a kitchen table, as a way of explaining why she lost an election that a lot of people thought she would win.”

Facts: This is revisionist history. The “hoax” that Trump colluded with the Russians was not “developed by Hillary Clinton and a group of people.”

Here are the facts: In July 2016, the FBI began investigating the Russian government’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election, including whether Trump’s campaign associates were involved in those efforts. As explained in the DOJ inspector general’s report in December 2019, the investigation of Trump’s campaign was triggered when a “Friendly Foreign Government,” an Australian diplomat, learned from George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, that the Russians had damaging information on Clinton.

“As we describe in Chapter Three, the FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane on July 31, 2016, just days after its receipt of information from a Friendly Foreign Government (FFG) reporting that, in May 2016, during a meeting with the FFG, then Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos ‘suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist this process with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs. Clinton (and President Obama),’” the report said. “The FBI Electronic Communication (EC) opening the Crossfire Hurricane investigation stated that, based on the FFG information, ‘this investigation is being opened to determine whether individual(s) associated with the Trump campaign are witting of and/or coordinating activities with the Government of Russia.’”

The investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller resulted in 37 indictments or guilty pleas — including against 26 Russians and three Russian companies, as summarized by Vox. A redacted report written by Mueller’s office detailed how the Russians carried out an extensive social media campaign and targeted cyberattacks against Clinton and the Democratic Party committees to damage Clinton and help Trump.

The report, which was released April 18, 2019, said the investigation “established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government.” But the investigation “did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.” (Read our story “What the Mueller Report Says About Russian Contacts” for more information.) 

In a second redacted report, investigators detailed multiple instances of Trump’s “obstructive acts” during the DOJ investigation. The report said that while the investigation “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” (Read our story “What the Mueller Report Says About Obstruction” for more information.)

False Claims about Clinton’s Emails

Claim: “We are being assaulted by the same group at the FBI and DOJ that, just a few years ago, declared no reasonable prosecutor would charge crooked Hillary Clinton after she set up a secret illegal server to hide her family’s pay-for-play schemes, crammed it full of classified information, allowed it to be plundered by foreign hackers, you know that happened. And then deleted, acid-washed, 30,000 emails. … And what else did she do? Boom, with a hammer, smashed her phone systems to smithereens after receiving the highest level of subpoena from the U.S. Congress.”

Facts: Trump gets very little right about the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

He’s right that the FBI “declared no reasonable prosecutor would charge” Clinton. On July 5, 2016, four months before the presidential election, then-FBI Director James Comey said at a press briefing: “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”

But the rest of Trump’s remarks are exaggerated or flat-out wrong.

Clinton’s server was not “crammed … full of classified information,” as Trump said. But Clinton is also wrong to continue to claim — as she did in a Sept. 6 tweet — that she kept “zero emails that were classified” on her server.

At the July 5, 2016, briefing, Comey said Clinton returned about 30,000 emails and, of those, “110 emails in 52 email chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received.” He also said “[o]nly a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information.” Days later, when testifying before a House committee, Comey clarified that three emails had “portion markings,” which he explained under questioning meant the emails were marked as classified with the letter “C” in the body of the email and therefore could have been missed by Clinton.

“Separate from those, about 2,000 additional emails were ‘up-classified’ to make them Confidential,” which is the lowest level of classification, he said in the July 5 briefing. “Up-classified,” Comey said, means “the information in those had not been classified at the time the emails were sent.”

There is also no evidence that Clinton’s emails were “plundered by foreign hackers,” as Trump put it.

As we wrote in “A Guide to Clinton’s Emails,” foreign hackers attempted to access the server, but the FBI and the State Department’s inspector general found no evidence that any attempt was successful. Comey said, however, that doesn’t mean the server wasn’t compromised. “[G]iven the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence,” Comey said.

There is also no evidence that Clinton destroyed evidence, as Trump claimed.

After identifying work emails to turn over to the State Department, Clinton directed her staff to delete 31,830 personal emails. (As we wrote, they were not “acid-washed,” as Trump said.) 

An outside contractor for Platte River Networks wiped Clinton’s computer hard drive of all emails sometime between March 25 and March 31, 2015, according to the FBI. That was about three weeks after the House Select Committee on Benghazi served Clinton with a subpoena on March 4, 2015. 

But Comey said “we believe our investigation has been sufficient to give us reasonable confidence there was no intentional misconduct in connection” with her staff’s sorting of work and personal emails, and no evidence of “efforts to obstruct justice.”

Finally, Trump’s wrong again when he says Clinton “smashed her phone systems to smithereens after receiving the highest level of subpoena from the U.S. Congress.”

As we have written, the FBI said in its notes on the investigation (on page 8) that Clinton used eight mobile devices while she was secretary of state. It quotes Clinton aide Justin Cooper (on page 9) as saying that he could recall on two occasions that he got rid of old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer. The IG report indicated that the destruction of the cell phones occurred while she was secretary of state – contrary to Trump’s claim that she did so “after receiving the highest level of subpoena from Congress.”

The IG report said Cooper and another aide told investigators that they “wiped or destroyed Clinton’s devices once she transitioned to new devices.” Comey said that investigators “found no evidence” that “work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them.”

No Evidence of a ‘Rigged Election’

Claim: “Young guys come up, beautiful staffers, there are a lot of them here right now, and here, all over the place, that just came up to me. ‘You won Pennsylvania by a lot, sir.’ I’d go, ‘That’s right. You’re right about that.’ Doug, I think at nine o’clock in the evening, we were 950,000 votes up, with 73% of the vote cast? All of a sudden, around 3:02 or something, the equipment closed down. It all closed down. And then you had that massive spike. Remember the spike that went to heaven and came back? It should have gone to hell and come back. And all of a sudden we were tied, and then all of a sudden we lost by a whisper. A rigged election.”

Facts: Trump lost Pennsylvania by about 80,000 votes, but the extended time needed to count ballots wasn’t evidence that the state’s election was “rigged.”

As we wrote before the election, it was expected that counting the mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania would extend beyond Election Day. That was due to several factors. First, Pennsylvanians voted by mail for the first time in 2020 without a specific reason, due to bipartisan legislation approved by a Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in October 2019. That legislative change, combined with the pandemic, resulted in more than 2.6 million voters casting their ballots in the 2020 general election. 

Second, Pennsylvania election officials by law cannot begin pre-canvassing ballots — opening envelopes and preparing the ballots to be counted — until Election Day at 7 a.m. Third, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a state Supreme Court ruling that allowed Pennsylvania up to three days to count mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day. Prior to the election, then-Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said it would take at least until Nov. 6 — three days after Election Day — to count all the ballots.

Also, it was not surprising that most of those ballots would be cast by Democrats, who in recent elections have used mail-in ballots more than Republicans. A March 2020 study that was coauthored by Charles Stewart, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, found a “growing tendency” of ballots counted after Election Day “to disproportionately favor Democrats in presidential elections,” which they dubbed the “blue shift.” 

Of the more than 2.6 million mail-in ballots cast in Pennsylvania, registered Democrats cast roughly 1.7 million ballots, while registered Republicans cast only about 623,000, according to the U.S. Elections Project, which is maintained by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor.

Throughout the Wilkes-Barre rally, Trump repeated his baseless claims of a “rigged election.” At another point, Trump said: “American elections should be determined only by the American people, and that did not happen in 2020.” But that’s exactly what did happen in 2020. In fact, top Justice Department officials under Trump testified at the House hearing on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that they told Trump his claims of election fraud were baseless — but he continues to repeat them, anyway. (See “Trump Ignored Aides, Repeated False Fraud Claims.”)

“My opinion then and my opinion now is that the election was not stolen by fraud,” former Attorney General William Barr told the committee.

Gas Prices

Claim: “Two years ago when I was in office gas was $1.87 a gallon. … But now gas is $5 and $6 and $7 and it’s going to be going up. Think of it. And they bragged because it came down slightly. It came down about 42 cents. We actually had it down at one point to $1.42. Remember that? But I had to get it a little up. We had to let the oil companies make a couple of bucks. I didn’t want to wipe out the oil companies.”

Facts: Nearly all of Trump’s figures are wrong. Gasoline prices were $2.48 per gallon and rising in the week Trump left office in January 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Gasoline prices were once $1.87 a gallon — the figure mentioned by Trump — in the last week of April 2020. U.S. oil prices were actually negative that month for the first time ever, due to a collapse in demand related to the coronavirus pandemic. That was the lowest weekly price during his four years as president. Prices never got as low as $1.42 per gallon, as Trump claimed.

Under Biden, weekly gasoline prices rose to a high of $5.11 in mid-June. Prices never got anywhere near $6 or $7 nationally. Retail gasoline prices have been steadily dropping since mid-June and were at $3.94 the last week of August. That’s a $1.17 per gallon price drop from the peak in mid-June, not 42 cents as Trump said.

As we wrote in July, forces largely outside Biden’s control were responsible for the spike in gasoline prices this summer. Nor is Biden chiefly responsible for the more recent decline, experts told us. Aanalysis published July 26 by the Treasury Department estimated that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve releases authorized by Biden, in conjunction with the additional releases from other International Energy Agency nations, lowered the price of gasoline in the U.S. between 17 cents and 42 cents per gallon. But as we wrote on Aug. 17, global economic forces beyond Biden’s control are driving the decline in gasoline prices.

Facebook and Hunter Biden

Claim: “Weirdo Mark Zuckerberg confessed that in 2020, the FBI went to Facebook and the media and gave them the false narrative that the Hunter Biden laptop from hell was Russian disinformation, even though they knew that was not true. So they went and they said it was Russian disinformation.”

Facts: That’s not what Zuckerberg said. In an interview with Joe Rogan on Aug. 25, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that prior to the 2020 presidential election Facebook downgraded the distribution of posts about Hunter Biden’s laptop. Zuckerberg said the decision to do that came after the FBI warned members of the Facebook team, “Hey, um, just so you know, like, you should be on high alert. There was the — we thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election. We have it on notice that basically there’s about to be some kind of dump of — that’s similar to that. So just be vigilant.” Zuckerberg said the FBI did not warn specifically about stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop, but Facebook determined those stories “basically fit the pattern.”

Meta put out a statement saying that nothing Zuckerberg shared in that interview was new, that Zuckerberg had said the same thing in an October 2020 interview with Sen. Ron Johnson.

“The FBI shared general warnings about foreign interference – nothing specific about Hunter Biden,” the Meta statement said.

Responding to news stories about Zuckerberg’s comments to Rogan, the FBI released a statement to Fox News that it “routinely notifies U.S. private sector entities, including social media providers, of potential threat information, so that they can decide how to better defend against threats.”

Zuckerberg said Facebook reduced distribution of posts about Hunter Biden’s laptop for about a week until independent fact-checkers looked into it and “no one was able to say it was false.” The New York Times, Washington Post, NBC News and Politico have since confirmed the laptop was Biden’s. Zuckerberg said that while he believes the review process was “pretty reasonable,” he said “it sucks” that Facebook reduced distribution for several days related to an issue that “turned out after the fact” to be legitimate.

(FactCheck.org works with Facebook as a third-party fact-checking partner; the platform has no role in our editorial decisions.)

Bagram Air Base

Claim: “I wanted to get out [of Afghanistan] more than anybody. I’m the one that got it down to 2,000 [soldiers]. But also we should have kept Bagram because of China. Bagram Air Base cost billions and billions of dollars years ago to build. It’s one hour away from where China makes its nuclear weapons. We should have never left without keeping Bagram. What a shame.”

Facts: On July 2, 2021, under President Biden, the U.S. military turned over Bagram Airfield, its largest airfield in Afghanistan, to the Afghan military ahead of the Aug. 31, 2021, deadline Biden set for full troop withdrawal. Although complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the abandoning of the Bagram Air Base were criticized by some military officials, that is one issue on which Biden and Trump shared a similar goal.

In February 2020, the Trump administration negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban. The so-called Doha agreement called for a complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, provided the Taliban upheld several conditions. As we have reported, the Trump administration kept to the pact, reducing U.S. troop levels from about 13,000 to 2,500, even as the Taliban continued to attack Afghan government forces and welcomed al-Qaeda terrorists into the Taliban leadership.

In addition to agreeing to a “complete withdrawal of all remaining forces from Afghanistan” by May 1, 2021, the Doha agreement said, “The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will withdraw all their forces from remaining bases.”

Biden delayed the May 1 withdrawal date that he inherited. But ultimately his administration pushed ahead with a plan to withdraw by Aug. 31, despite continued and obvious signs that the Taliban wasn’t complying with the agreement.

In a statement released on April 18, 2021, Trump criticized Biden’s delayed withdrawal deadline saying, “we can and should get out earlier.” He concluded, “Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do. I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible.”

Six days before U.S. troops abandoned the Bagram Air Base, Trump boasted at a rally in Ohio that the Biden administration “couldn’t stop the process” that he started with the Doha agreement, and that “all the troops are coming back home.”

On Aug. 24, 2021, days before the final pullout from Afghanistan, Trump called the decision to abandon Bagram a mistake, saying that “we should have kept Bagram because Bagram is between China.”

In a Sept. 29, 2021, hearing before a House panel, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, then commander of U.S. Central Command, said that keeping the airbase at Bagram was “untenable” after Biden ordered all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. McKenzie added, “I did not see any tactical utility” to holding Bagram.

In late November, Trump again said that had he remained president, he planned to hold on to the Bagram airfield even after withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

“I was going to keep Bagram because of China, not because of Afghanistan,” Trump told Fox News. “Because they’re one hour away from their nuclear nuisance, because that’s exactly what it is, that’s where they make their nuclear [weapons].”

But we could find no statements Trump made while president of his intention to hold onto Bagram.  Rather, he repeatedly spoke of withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan, and he made an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw American forces from all bases in Afghanistan.

Nord Stream 2

Claim: “And now we have a war between Russia and Ukraine with potentially hundreds of thousands and even millions of people are going to die. That would’ve never happened if I was your president. Would’ve never happened. I promise you. I talked to him. ‘Vladimir, you can’t do that. Can’t do it, Vladimir. Those beautiful golden turrets in Moscow, Vladimir, I want to leave them alone please. You can’t do it Vladimir.’ He would never have done it. He would never have done it. He said, ‘Well, I sort of believe you because you actually did kill me on Nord Stream 2.’ Nobody thought that was possible. I ended Nord. … Can you imagine? Biden came in and he opened up the pipeline. I ended it.”

Facts: Trump’s claim that he “ended” Nord Stream 2 is inaccurate. As we have written several times, Congress approved a defense bill, signed into law by Trump in 2019, that included sanctions against companies building Nord Stream 2. Construction of the pipeline — which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany and parallel to the already operational Nord Stream 1 — was suspended in response to the sanctions. But the pipeline was about 90% complete at the time, and construction started up again in December 2020, while Trump was still in office. So Trump can claim credit for slowing the project but not ending it.

The Biden administration also opposed the project, but, according to a Congressional Research Service Report, “U.S. officials have suggested the Administration’s ability to prevent the pipeline from becoming operational is limited, even with additional sanctions.”

Biden waived sanctions against those involved in the Nord Stream 2 project in May 2021, and the pipeline was completed in September 2021. But it’s still not operational, as Germany officially stopped the required certification process on Feb. 22 after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. (Russia also “indefinitely” halted operation of Nord Stream 1 on Sept. 2, pending maintenance that Russian President Vladimir Putin says is being delayed by Western sanctions.)

IRS Agents

Claim: “And now you have the privilege of having 87,000 IRS agents go after you. And they’ve actually been approved. I’d never heard of this one. They got approved to carry guns, so they can go after you with guns. You know, they don’t want to have guns, but it’s okay for the IRS. It’s like an army.”

Facts: This is false. No one has authorized 87,000 IRS agents to carry guns and go after law-abiding taxpayers.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law in August, includes roughly $79 billion in additional funding for the IRS over 10 years. IRS and Treasury Department officials have said that a portion of the money will be used to hire new employees, potentially as many as 87,000, most of whom will replace outgoing staff and will work in customer service, doing tasks such as upgrading computer systems and answering phones.

But the IRS also plans to hire an unspecified number of tax examiners and revenue agents whose job will be to make sure that more high-income individuals and businesses — not the middle-class — are paying their taxes. 

“The majority of new employees will replace the standard level of staff departures over the next few years and will be hired to improve taxpayer services,” an IRS spokesperson told us last month. “The agency will also bring on experienced auditors who can take on corporate and high-end tax evaders, without increasing audit rates relative to historical norms for people earning under $400,000 each year.”  

Furthermore, only IRS “special agents,” who handle criminal cases and are law enforcement officers, are authorized to carry guns. That has been the case for many years, including when Trump was president. 

Only about 3% of all IRS employees work for IRS Criminal Investigation, which is the sixth-largest federal law enforcement agency in the U.S, a Treasury Department spokesperson told us. The division, which is known for the arrest of American gangster Al Capone, investigates cases related to money laundering, cybercrime, bank secrecy, national security, national defense and narcotics organizations. 

IRS Criminal Investigation currently has about 2,100 special agents, a division spokesperson told us. That total is not much different from the 2,030 special agents in 2020, Trump’s last year as president, or the 2,159 special agents in 2017, his first year in office.


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