On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin denied a request from House Democrats for access to six years of President Donald Trump’s personal tax returns, according to a CNN report.
Edited by: JV Staff
“I am informing you now that the Department may not lawfully fulfill the Committee’s request,” Mnuchin wrote in his one-page letter, written in consultation with lawyers from the Department of Justice.
Mnuchin added that the Department of Justice would issue a formal legal opinion.
Mnuchin, in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), said he had consulted with the Justice Department and that they had concluded that it would not be lawful for the Trump administration to turn over the tax returns because of potential violations of privacy.
Mnuchin added that requests from Congress “must serve a legitimate legislative purpose” and that the request from Democrats does not.
Neal said in a statement on Monday evening, “I will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response.”
On April 23, Mnuchin notified House Democrats that he would be consulting with the Justice Department about the request for Trump’s tax returns and planned to reach his final decision on May 6.
The Washington Post reported that a number of legal experts have said it would be unprecedented for Mnuchin to refuse to turn over the tax returns, as the power for lawmakers to seek the returns is written explicitly in a 1924 law.
Trump has refused to release his tax information, first as a candidate and now as president, breaking a precedent going back to Watergate, as was reported by CNN.
The fight over Trump’s tax returns is escalating just as the President has made increasingly clear that he expects his administration officials to fight requests from the opposing party. Attorney General William Barr declined a Democratic request to testify last week in the House about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, a day after appearing in the Republican-controlled Senate, according to the CNN report.
An administration official familiar with the matter said the Trump administration is not backing down in the fight over the President’s tax returns.
“It appears the Justice Department is prepared to litigate” the matter in the courts if Neal goes that route, the official said.
Some Democrats made clear Monday that they are eager to escalate, citing the Mueller report as well as the conviction of Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.
“On a day when his former fixer heads to jail and his current fixer heads the Department of Justice, President Trump obstructs both Mueller and his tax returns from speaking for themselves,” Texas Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett said in a statement. “We need immediate legal action. We cannot allow this bad president to set bad precedent.”
The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, applauded the decision not to turn over Trump’s returns.
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