Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has formally refused a request the Chairman of the House Ways and Means committee to turn over several years of Trump’s tax returns. This wasn’t unexpected but it does set up a future showdown over the issue. From the Washington Post:
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…
In his new letter, he said that “In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and…the Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.”…
House Democrats have insisted they are on strong legal footing in their request for the tax returns, and several lawmakers said they expect to file a lawsuit so that a federal judge will rule on the matter. This process could take months, though, and ultimately end up before the Supreme Court.
There’s no doubt this is a political fishing expedition by Democrats. The only question is whether the law allows them to do it. The 1924 law they are relying on states that the tax-writing committee can request and view anyone’s tax returns simply be asking. There’s no apparent wiggle-room in the language of the law itself but in his letter to Chairman Neal, Sec. Mnuchin states that the request lacks a legitimate purpose. His letter adds that DOJ “intends to memorialize its advice” on the matter soon. According to Politico, it’s not clear who will eventually win that argument in court as legal experts differ:
Some say they are likely to prevail, pointing to the plain language of the statute, which stipulates “the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request.”
Others note there is a long history of court opinions demanding lawmakers have a legitimate policy reason for their investigations — something related to their jobs as policymakers — which some experts say could be a significant hurdle.
Democrats contend they do have a legislative reason for wanting Trump’s returns, saying they want to vet the IRS’s long-standing policy of automatically auditing all presidents and vice presidents, because they don’t know how rigorous those examinations are.
Democrats are lying of course. What they really want is to get Trump’s taxes and scour them for damaging information they can use for purely partisan purposes in the 2020 election. Their argument is that past presidents have always released this information during the campaign so they should have had an opportunity to do this sort of oppo research already but were denied. I guess we’ll eventually find out what the Supreme Court has to say about this.