Written by Nicholas Fandos
A Democratic House chairman on Saturday castigated the Treasury Department for failing to meet his deadline to furnish President Donald Trump’s tax returns, arguing that the administration’s apparent concerns over his use of powers outlined in the IRS tax code “lack merit.”
The chairman, Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., set a new deadline for compliance, April 23, and warned that if the Trump administration did not reply by then, its “failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request.”
The tone of Neal’s letter suggested Democrats are prepared to take their request — made through a little-known provision in the federal tax code — to court if necessary, initiating what could be a protracted legal fight over Congress’ oversight powers. In it, he cited legal precedent that he argued clearly showed the law is on the committee’s side, and said that the executive branch had no right to “second guess” its motivations.
“I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding my request and the authority of the committee,” Neal wrote. “Those concerns lack merit. Moreover, judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the committee’s request.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday that he had read Neal’s letter but made no commitments about complying with the request by the new deadline.
“I feel a responsibility that we get this right and that the IRS doesn’t become weaponized like it was under the Nixon administration,” Mnuchin said during a news briefing on the sidelines of the annual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Mnuchin said that Treasury lawyers were studying the lawfulness of the request with the Justice Department. While he said he would follow the law, he made clear he had serious concerns about protecting the privacy of the tax returns of all taxpayers, including Trump.
“I don’t think these are simple issues,” Mnuchin said. “They are constitutional issues.”
This month, Neal formally requested six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns, ending months of speculation about when newly empowered Democrats would make a request and how they would justify it.
Trump has made abundantly clear he does not intend to relent on his yearslong objections to turning over his tax returns, and his personal lawyer has urged the Treasury Department to fight Neal’s request.