- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied House Democrats’ requests for President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
- Mnuchin said the request for the president’s tax returns “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”
- Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee will now be tasked with sending a subpoena, which could develop into a lawsuit if the Trump administration continues to defy them.
- Trump has been adamant about not releasing his tax returns, which presidential candidates have traditionally done voluntarily.
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WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin informed Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee that he would not be handing over six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns on Monday as they requested, continuing the ongoing fight over the president’s personal finances.
The committee has been adamant about its legal authorityto review Trump’s tax returns. But administration officials have stonewalled it. Now Democrats on the committee are poised to dramatically ramp up the fight.
“In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and pursuant to section 6103, the Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information,” Mnuchin said in a letter.
After the committee originally requested the tax returns from IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in April, Mnuchin set his own deadline for May 6, taking the extra time to review with the Justice Department whether he was even legally required to hand over the returns. This move greatly angered Democratson the House Ways and Means Committee, who have repeatedly maintained they have full authority to demand tax returns from Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
The committee is conducting the review for the purpose of examining the IRS process for auditing presidential tax returns. This conflicts with Trump’s claim that he cannot release his returns until he is done being audited.
Mnuchin also said that the Justice Department would publish a full legal review of the decision and said the Treasury could “provide information concerning the Committee’s stated interest in how the IRS conducts mandatory examinations of Presidents.”
Democrats now have several options before them, including a subpoena for the returns. So far, each request has been voluntary. If Trump administration officials decline to comply with the subpoena, a lawsuit could follow.
In a statement following Mnuchin’s letter, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal offered a cryptic response to the decision.
“Today, Secretary Mnuchin notified me that the IRS will not provide the documents I requested under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code. I will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response,” Neal said in a statement.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, has said Democrats would “never” obtain Trump’s taxes, echoing many of the president’s allies who insist that because Trump broke precedent by not voluntarily releasing his returns as a presidential candidate in 2016 and still won the election, the issue is settled in the minds of the public.
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have said that it is an abuse of powerto expose people’s tax returns, including the president’s. This is despite the fact that Republicans on the same committee revealed the private tax information of a handful of US citizens during a 2014 probe when they were in the majority.
And Trump himself, who has made a concerted effort to deny Democrats various probes into his administration and personal businesses, has repeatedly saidhe would not reveal his tax returns.