Citing the counsel of Department of Justice officials, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has formally rejected congressional Democrats’ request for access to President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
In a letter submitted Monday to House Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal, the key Democrat who’s spent months pestering the Treasury Department for access to the president’s tax returns, Mnuchin noted that the committee’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”
“In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose. … [T]he Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information,” he wrote.
However, he graciously offered an alternative solution to address congressional Democrats’ alleged concerns over whether the IRS is auditing taxpayers correctly.
“Although the Department is unable to provide you with the requested confidential tax returns and return information, we renew our previous offer to provide information concerning the Committee’s stated interest in how the IRS conducts mandatory examinations of Presidents. …If the committee is interested, we remain committed to providing such an accommodation.”
— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) May 6, 2019
Neal has claimed that he wants access to the president’s tax returns so that he may ensure that the IRS is auditing taxpayers correctly. Congressional Republicans and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders have argued that this excuse is BS.
“This is very simple: Mr. Neal wants to screw with the president,” Sen. John Kennedy’s argued. “He doesn’t think the president ought to be president. Well, you know, words can’t express how much I don’t care. It’s not Mr. Neal’s call. The American people have chosen Donald Trump as president.”
“The only reason that the Oversight Committee has the ability to request someone’s taxes is for the purpose of determining policy. This has nothing to do with whether or not they’re going to determine policy. This is all about political partnership,” Sanders has likewise said.
Mnuchin originally replied to Neal’s request by warning of its “unprecedented” nature and vowing to first seek the DOJ’s counsel before rendering a final decision.
“The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically-motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power,” he wrote.
“Given the seriousness of these issues, which bear no connection to ordinary tax administration, we have begun consultations with the Department of Justice to ensure that our response is fully consistent with the law and the Constitution.”
Secretary Mnuchin’s response to Chairman Neal’s letter requesting President Trump’s tax returns: pic.twitter.com/X2VsDYKpYh
— Tony Sayegh (@TreasurySpox) April 10, 2019
Three days later Neal made an attempt to bypass the Treasury secretary’s authority by submitting a letter directly to IRS Commissioner. Commissioner Chuck Rettig giving him exactly 10 days to comply or face certain unknown consequences.
“To date, the IRS has failed to provide the requested return and return information despite an unambitious legal obligation to do so … I expect a reply from the IRS by 5:00 pm on April 23, 2019. Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,” Neal wrote.
In the two-page letter, the Massachusetts congressman also pushed back against concerns raised by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the legitimacy of his request.
“I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding my request and the authority of the Committee. Those concerns lack merit. Moreover, judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the Committee’s request.”
The full letter may be read below:
It’s not clear what the purpose of this letter had been, given as Mnuchin’s authority supersedes Rettig’s authority, meaning that the commissioner had no real say in the matter.
Fast-forwarding to the present, Neal has reportedly responded to Mnuchin’s formal rejection by vowing to consult with his own counsel.
“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,” he said in a statement issued early Monday evening.
House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal: “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.”
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 6, 2019
His only remaining options are to either “subpoena the Internal Revenue Service for the returns or to file a lawsuit,” according to Fox News. While it’s unclear which path Neal will ultimately choose, he’s already facing pressure from fellow lawmakers and activists to make a decision quickly.
“We need immediate legal action. We cannot allow this bad president to set bad precedent. If Trump once again faces only Republican silence and Democratic timidity, he will continue to erode our democracy by assuming more and more power,” congressman Lloyd Doggett said in a statement.
It’s unclear how preventing congressional Democrats from accessing the president’s tax returns and using them for partisan purposes would allow Trump to assume “more and more power.”
House Ways & Means member Lloyd Doggett: “We need immediate legal action. We cannot allow this bad president to set bad precedent. If Trump once again faces only Republican silence and Democratic timidity, he will continue to erode our democracy by assuming more and more power.”
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 6, 2019
He reiterated this stance during an appearance on MSNBC later Monday evening.
The Tax March, an unofficial far-left group dedicated to forcing the president to release his tax returns, has also weighed in, saying in a statement that Democrats need to subpoena the president’s returns and hold Mnuchin in contempt of Congress.
— Tax March (@taxmarch) May 6, 2019
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