Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin rejected a request from the House Ways and Means Committee for six years of Trump’s tax returns on Monday.
“In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and pursuant to section 6103, the Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information,” Mnuchin wrote in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA).
In his April 23 letter to Neal, Mnuchin wrote “we expect to provide the Committee with a final decision by May 6, after receiving the Justice Department’s legal conclusions.” Yet based on Monday’s letter, it’s unclear whether the written opinion is completed.
The Treasury Secretary writes only that DOJ “intends to memorialize its advice in a published legal opinion as soon as practicable.” He did not specify when that would be.
The move sets up a likely subpoena from Neal. If the Treasury does not comply with that subpoena, House Democrats will likely file a lawsuit to obtain the information.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) requested six years of Trump’s personal and business returns on April 3, under a statute that mandates that the Treasury Secretary provide the returns of any filer upon request from the head of the House Ways and Means Committee.
In a Monday statement, Neal said that he would “consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response.”
The Treasury Secretary went on to claim in the May letter that, contra assertions by House Democrats and legal scholars familiar with the underlying statute, that “the Department may not lawfully fulfill the Committee’s request.”
Neal had tailored the request for a stated purpose of reviewing whether the IRS is impartially auditing the returns of its boss – President Trump.
But Mnuchin denied in the letter that that constituted a legitimate purpose, writing only that “we renew our previous offer to provide information concerning the Committee’s stated interest in how the IRS conducts mandatory examinations of Presidents, as provided by the Internal Revenue Manual.”
After Neal first issued the request, the Trump Administration immediately suggested that it would fail to comply with the request, with Mnuchin blowing off two deadlines imposed by Neal to hand over the tax information.
Mnuchin delayed responding to an earlier request from Neal until May 6, saying it would take that long to supply a Justice Department opinion justifying his position.
In public correspondence with Neal, Mnuchin has suggested that the House’s request represents an illegitimate intrusion on Trump’s privacy. That aligns with other arguments made by the Trump Administration in ongoing clashes with congressional Democrats, in which Trump has argued that the House lacks proper authority to oversee his administration.
Read Mnuchin’s letter to the committee below: