Steve Mnuchin continues to run interference between House Democrats and Trump’s tax returns.
The Treasury Secretary told the House Ways and Means Committee Monday that he could not “lawfully fulfill” the committee’s request to hand over six years of Trump’s tax documents.
“As you have recognized, the committee’s request is unprecedented, and it presents serious constitutional questions, the resolution of which may have lasting consequences for all taxpayers,” Mnuchin wrote in the one-page letter.
“In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” Mnuchin continued. “The Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.”
Ways and Means originally requested Trump’s tax returns by citing a law that says the IRS “shall furnish” any given taxpayer’s returns to certain top lawmakers — including the chair of that committee.
Mnuchin’s letter is sure to infuriate Democrats who originally tried to get Trump’s tax returns in April by directing their request to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, the only person with the legal authority to turn over tax returns. Mnuchin has twice interceded, however, and said he had the authority to do so because he oversees the IRS.
Rep. Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, issued a brief statement in response to Mnuchin’s letter.
“I will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response,” Neal told the New York Times.
The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, was unsurprisingly happy that Trump didn’t surrender his tax returns.
"This politically motivated abuse of the law violates our Constitution — and serves no legislative purpose,” Brady said in a statement.
Mnuchin’s denial comes after he missed two deadlines from the House to hand over Trump’s tax forms. Trump’s decision not to release his tax returns — which he claims are “under audit” — broke with decades of tradition and have stirred controversy since his presidential campaign. Access to Trump’s tax returns would give Democrats the ability to have a closer look at the president’s business dealings but, perhaps more embarrassingly for a man who built his brand on being rich, may also show that the former “Apprentice” host just isn’t as wealthy as he claims to be.
Trump has already indicated that he has no plans to release his tax returns in 2020.
Cover: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee, Tuesday, April 9, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)