House Democrat, treasury chief bicker over Trump tax returns

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 14, 2019

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed President Trump's tax returns might be too taxing for members of Congress.

Neal, D-Mass, re-upped his demand for President Donald Trump's tax returns Saturday, telling IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in a letter he has 10 days to turn over the records.

Neal argues that the language in the law unambiguously mandates the IRS to provide the tax returns to the committee upon request, that the IRS can not legally question the committee's objective, and that "concerns about what the committee may do with the tax returns and return information are baseless".

On Wednesday, Mnuchin said the Treasury was handling the request and that a deadline set for that date would be missed, citing possible constitutional issues.

"At a certain point, it's obvious there is not going to be something forthcoming, and at that point you take further steps", said George Yin, a University of Virginia law professor who served as chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation, in an interview earlier this week.

But the IRS has said that he could release the returns even if they are under audit.

Mnuchin, who has consulted with the White House and Department of Justice about Trump's tax returns, said earlier this week that Neal's request raised concerns about the scope of the committee's authority, privacy protections for USA taxpayers and the legislative goal of lawmakers in seeking the documents.

Trump refused to release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign, breaking decades of precedent under which candidates for the White House voluntarily released their returns.

Neal also wrote that concerns about the committee's access to the returns were "baseless".

By comparison, in the last budget year of the Obama administration, there were 94,751 people arrested with convictions, 6,267 arrests of those with pending charges and 9,086 on immigration violations.

During his tenure at the Justice Department, Trump's former attorney general Jeff Sessions went after sanctuary cities, threatening to cut off their federal funding.

Asked repeatedly at a House hearing Tuesday whether any regulation prohibited a taxpayer from disclosing returns when under audit, Rettig responded "no".

According to The Hill, Mnuchin plans to consult with the Justice Department to determine how the IRS is to handle the matter.

Neal's request for the returns of a sitting president is unprecedented, and legal experts say its success or failure may depend on a court ruling about the committee's legislative objective for seeking the documents. But he also acknowledged his "statutory responsibilities" and that he respects congressional oversight. Trump then said on Friday he was still considering the idea.

"The president likes the idea and Democrats have said they want these individuals into their communities so let's see if it works and everybody gets a win out of it", Sanders said.

William Consovoy, whose firm was retained by Trump to represent him on the matter, has written the Treasury's general counsel and said the congressional request "would set a risky precedent" if granted and that the IRS can not legally divulge the information. Mulvaney has tried to frame the issue of the president's taxes as old news, saying it was "already litigated during the election" and the American people "elected him anyway".

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