Charles Littlejohn is an Internal Revenue Service consultant who is accused of “disclosing tax return information without authorization,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Details in the indictment match the New York Times’ reporting on former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, and ProPublica’s reporting on the tax returns of the nation’s billionaires, ProPublica reported.
According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, Littlejohn, while working at the IRS as a government contractor, “stole tax return information associated with a high-ranking government official (Public Official A) and disclosed it to a news organization (News Organization 1).”
The DOJ accuses Littlejohn of also stealing “tax return information for thousands of the nation’s wealthiest individuals, and disclosed this tax return information to another news organization (News Organization 2).
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Charles Littlejohn Is Accused of Releasing Donald Trump’s Tax Returns to The New York Times, Reports Say
ProPublica reported that the DOJ’s description of the second leak “appears to match The New York Times’ reporting on the taxes of Donald Trump.”
The DOJ statement does not name Trump. As Trump battled against release of his tax records, The New York Times reported that he did not pay income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years.
“Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance,” The Times’ headline says.
Littlejohn “is charged with one count of unauthorized disclosure of tax returns and return information. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison,” the DOJ said.
“Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Trevor Nelson of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) made the announcement,” the DOJ’s news release said, adding that TIGTA “is investigating the case.”
The complaint says that, from in or about 2018 until in or about 2020, “while Defendant was working on an IRS contract, he stole tax returns and return information associated with Public Official A and thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, including returns and return information dating back more than 15 years.”
It adds: “He thereafter disclosed the tax information associated with Public Official A to News Organization 1 and the other tax information to News Organization 2. Both news organizations published numerous articles describing the tax information they obtained from the Defendant.”
2. ProPublica Says the Charles Littlejohn Charges Appear Related to a ‘Trove of IRS data’ the News Organization Used in a ‘Secret IRA Files’ Series
One of the news organizations, ProPublica, reported that the DOJ’s description “of one of those leaks appears to refer to the trove of IRS data that ProPublica used to report its ‘Secret IRS Files’ series. The vast dataset contained details on thousands of wealthy Americans, and ProPublica reported dozens of stories based on an analysis of it.”
“As we have said from the beginning, we do not know the identity of the source, so we have nothing further to say about the charges filed today,” Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica’s editor in chief, said in the story.
ProPublica’s series announced, “A massive trove of tax information obtained by ProPublica, covering thousands of America’s wealthiest individuals, reveals what’s inside the billionaires’ bag of tricks for minimizing their personal tax bills — sometimes to nothing.”
The taxes returns covered in that series included information relating to Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett, all billionaires, according to Pro Publica. “The tax data was provided to ProPublica after we published a series of articles scrutinizing the IRS,” the article says, not naming its source.
ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits.
3. Charles Littlejohn Has Served as a Contractor to a Consulting Firm that Worked for the IRS, the Indictment Says
The indictment says “from in or about 2017 until in or about 2021, Defendant CHARLES EDWARD LITTLEJOHN served as a contractor to Company A, a consulting firm that serviced public and private clients.” The firm is not named.
“During the relevant period, Defendant primarily worked on contracts Company A had obtained with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). Pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 6103(n), returns and return information were disclosed to Defendant for purposes of tax administration,” the indictment says.
According to Fox News, reported that “a guilty plea is in the works” and that Littlejohn was a contractor for the IRS when he is accused of stealing Trump’s tax returns and giving them to the New York Times.
4. Former President Donald Trump Accused the ‘Fake News Media’ of Publishing ‘Illegally Obtained Information’
Trump railed at the news media after the publication of his tax returns. “The Fake News Media, just like Election time 2016, is bringing up my Taxes & all sorts of other nonsense with illegally obtained information & only bad intent. I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits…..” he wrote on X.
He added, “Also, if you look at the extraordinary assets owned by me, which the Fake News hasn’t, I am extremely under leveraged – I have very little debt compared to the value of assets. Much of this information is already on file, but I have long said that I may release.
“Financial Statements, from the time I announced I was going to run for President, showing all properties, assets and debts. It is a very IMPRESSIVE Statement, and also shows that I am the only President on record to give up my yearly $400,000 plus Presidential Salary!” Trump wrote.
5. The IRS Has ‘Tightened Security,” Reports Say
According to the Associated Press, the IRS declined to comment specifically on the Littlejohn indictment.
However, Commissioner Danny Werfel said “any disclosure of taxpayer information is unacceptable,” the AP reported, adding that “the agency has since tightened security.”
According to Politico, Ken Griffin, “a prominent hedge fund manager,” sued the IRS “for failing to protect his tax filings,” and the government argued in court that “there was no evidence that leak came from a government employee.”
“The government has a fundamental obligation to protect the confidentiality of Americans’ sensitive information, whether it be tax records or healthcare records,” Griffin told Politico.