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Neal Says Request For Trump's Tax Returns Is About Policy, Not Politics

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As the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Richard Neal says he has the jurisdiction to audit anyone’s tax returns — including those of President Donald Trump.

Neal put in a request for Trump’s tax returns between 2013-2018 on Apr. 3, arguing that his committee needed to conduct oversight of the Internal Revenue Service’s policy of auditing the taxes of sitting presidents. Democrats have been keen to review Trump’s taxes, and on the campaign trail several candidates have accused the president of dishonesty for refusing to release them. Neal, however, says his request is strictly about policy, not politics.

“We have not gone lightly into this consideration,” Neal said Friday during an interview with Boston Public Radio. “I have pointed out time and again that this is not about painting your face and going to a demonstration. I’ve carefully refrained from a lot of commentary with cable shows and others. I’ve stayed away from it, largely because I think that this is a matter of policy.”

On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin penned a letter to the committee questioning the legality of Neal’s request and accused him of invoking his authority for political gain.

“Due to the serious constitutional questions raised by this request and the serious consequences that a resolution of those questions could have for taxpayer privacy, the Department is consulting with the Department of Justice,” Mnuchin wrote in the letter. “The Supreme Court has made clear that exposure for the sake of exposure is never a permissible purpose of Congressional inquiries, and this principle is all the more important when private and legally protected tax information is at stake.”

Mnuchin says he expects to make a final decision by May 6, but Neal said he was not surprised by the secretary’s initial rejection and expects the issue to be settled in court. Neal did, however, reject Mnuchin’s assertion that he made the request purely to smear the president.

“I’ve always thought that this was headed to court, and I did not believe there would be any voluntary inclination to turn over the tax forms,” Neal said. “The law doesn’t say 'maybe,' and the law doesn’t say 'what if,' and I can assure you that this is a discussion about policy and not about politics.”

A spokesman for the administration said on Fox and Friends Tuesday that Trump has no intention of turning over his tax returns to the committee. The administration is currently suing House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings for a similar request Cummings made for Trump’s financial records from the accounting firm Mazars USA.

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