A top House Democrat on Friday issued subpoenas for six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, giving Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig a deadline of next Friday to deliver them.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal 9D-Mass.), issued the subpoenas days after Mnuchin refused to comply with demands to turn over Trump’s returns. Mnuchin told the panel he wouldn’t provide Trump’s tax records because the panel’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” as Supreme Court precedent requires.
Neal reminded the two Trump appointees in a Friday letter that federal law states that the IRS “shall furnish” the tax returns of any individual upon the request of the chairmen of Congress’s tax-writing committees and that Ways and Means “has never been denied” a request.
The White House and the Democratic-controlled House are waging a multi-front battle over investigations into Trump and the administration has been refusing to comply across the board, refusing to comply with subpoenas for the unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller and documents related to the testimony by former White House counsel Donald McGahn.
Neal originally demanded access to Trump’s tax returns in early April. He maintains that the committee is looking into the effectiveness of IRS mandatory audits of tax returns of all sitting presidents, a way to justify his claim that the panel has a potential legislative purpose. Democrats are confident in their legal justification and said Trump is stalling in an attempt to punt the issue past the 2020 election.
In rejecting the request, Mnuchin said he relied on the advice of the Justice Department. He concluded that the Treasury Department is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.” Mnuchin has also said that Neal’s request would potentially weaponize private tax returns for political purposes.
“While I do not take this step lightly, I believe this action gives us the best opportunity to succeed and obtain the requested material,” Neal said in a statement.
Trump has privately made it clear that he has no intention of turning over the much-coveted records.
But the president has told those close to him that the attempt to get his returns was an invasion of his privacy and a further example of the Democrat-led “witch hunt”—like Mueller’s Russia probe—meant to damage him.
Other House committees have already subpoenaed Trump’s banks and accountant to obtain his financial records. The president is challenging the merits of those subpoenas in court, arguing that Congress is going past its constitutional power to obtain his financial information.
Treasury has made a similar argument in its rebuff of Neal’s request for Trump’s tax information.
On Friday, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), echoed Trump’s argument against cooperating with congressional requests for his financial information in a letter to Neal requesting that he end the investigation into Trump’s tax returns.
“[F]rom press accounts to statements by senior members of this committee, it has become obvious that your supposed legislative purpose is just a pretext, and your request is merely a means to access and make public the tax returns of a single individual for purely political purposes,” wrote Brady.