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Treasury Department rejects handing over Trump's tax returns to House Democrats

May 7, 2019
In The News

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Monday rejected House Democrats' request to obtain President Donald Trump's tax returns, which will likely lead to a fight in the courts.

 

In a letter to Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claimed that the Ways and Means Committee's "request is unprecedented," adding that he believes "it presents serious constitutional questions, the resolution of which may have lasting consequences for all taxpayers." He noted that he consulted with the Department of Justice on his decision.

 

"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 wrote.

 

Mnuchin also said that the Department of Justice will publish a "legal opinion as soon as practicable" on its advice to the treasury secretary.

 

Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, in a statement on Monday said that he had been notified of Mnuchin's decision.

 

“I will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response,” Neal said in the statement.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the committee's top Republican, accused House Democrats of trying to "weaponize the tax code for purely political reasons," saying that the request for Trump's tax returns is "illegitimate and should be treated as such."

 

He went on to praise Mnuchin's decision to not hand over the returns.

 

“This politically motivated abuse of the law violates our Constitution – and serves no legislative purpose," Brady said in a statement. "Abusing the tax writing Committee’s authority to go after a political enemy sets a dangerous precedent, and the Administration is right not to go along with it.”

 

Mnuchin missed the second deadline to release the returns in April. At the time, he wrote to Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to outline concerns over the request for tax returns and said the delay was because he was waiting on guidance from the Justice Department. Mnuchin said he would offer a final decision by Monday, May 6.

 

Neal made the original request for Trump's 2013-2018 tax returns to the IRS, which is part of the Treasury Department. He invoked a law allowing a select few members of Congress to review individual tax returns for legislative purposes and cited legislative proposals and oversight related to federal tax laws as his basis for the request.

 

It was the first such demand for a sitting president’s tax information in 45 years.

 

Neal also demanded copies of tax returns for Trump's trust and for his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

 

Democrats have been eager to get ahold of Trump's tax returns since he broke with tradition and refused to release them during his 2016 presidential campaign. Since taking office, Trump still has not made the documents public, arguing he's under audit.

 

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said last month "No one cares about ridiculous charges about tax returns" and pointed out Trump was elected without releasing them.

 

The White House has repeatedly said it had no plans to release the returns. However, it is the Treasury Department, not the White House, that is obligated to furnish the documents under the provision of the tax code that Neal invoked in his request.

 

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is the other lawmaker able to request the tax returns. He said he is not interested in requesting the tax returns because he views the Democrats' request as a political stunt. However, if the House Democrats receive them, he will make the request for parity