Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could land himself in court for protecting Trump.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin ignored a subpoena and broke the law by not handing over Trump's taxes to Congress by a Friday afternoon deadline.
And the next step is likely to be federal court, according to Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.
In a letter sent to Neal just before the 5 p.m. deadline, Mnuchin made the unsubstantiated claim that Neal's request "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose," and said that after consultation with the Department of Justice, he is once again refusing to comply with Congress.
"I anticipate that they won't meet that deadline, and the result will be that we will likely proceed to court as quickly as next week," Neal told reporters a few hours before Mnuchin sent his letter.
"Secretary Mnuchin is violating a legitimate Congressional request under an unambiguous law," Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, told Shareblue Media on Friday after Mnuchin sent the letter. "Ignoring Congress and the law to protect the President is not the Treasury Secretary’s job."
"Now it is time to consider next steps, including legal action," Chu added.
Despite repeated promises to release his taxes during the 2016 campaign, Trump went back on his word, defying a decades-long norm followed by presidents of both parties. Neal demanded six years' worth of Trump's personal and business taxes from the IRS in April, using a provision in the law that requires the Treasury Department to hand them over.
"A reading of the plain language of the tax code indicates that Congress does in fact have the legal authority to request and obtain tax information from any filer, including the president," Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor, told Vox in April. "Therefore, if Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the Treasury, refuses Congress’s request, he would be violating the law."
Even after Mnuchin broke the law once, Neal provided him yet another opportunity to make things right by issuing a subpoena on May 10 demanding the same information.
With his letter, Mnuchin once again defied both Congress and the law in order to keep whatever Trump is hiding away from public view.
It is unclear what, exactly, Trump is so desperate to hide from Congress. Ten years of Trump's tax information from the mid-1980s through the early 90s were recently reviewed by the New York Times, showing Trump was such a bad businessman that he lost a billion dollars in a decade. It is also possible that Trump's taxes and other financial documents could show problematic ties with foreign entities in countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia.
Advocates for transparency and accountability spoke out Friday to blast Mnuchin's decision to cover for Trump.
"It is unconscionable for our country to have a Treasury Secretary who repeatedly shows us that he will continue to obstruct justice at every turn in order to do Trump’s bidding," Maura Quint, executive director of the Tax March, said in a statement.
"Compliance was not optional," Ryan Thomas, spokesperson for Stand Up America, said in a statement. "By willfully failing to meet this deadline, Secretary Mnuchin has made a mockery of Congress and the Constitution that empowers the legislative branch to conduct oversight of the executive branch." Thomas went on to call for Neal to immediately take Mnuchin to court.
Neal had the option to hold Mnuchin in contempt of Congress, but is leaning toward just heading straight to federal court instead.
"I don't see that right now as an option," Neal said of the contempt approach on Friday before the deadline. "I think the better option for us is to proceed to the court case."
If the courts stay true to the law, Trump could soon be forced to hand over his taxes to Congress — which would then be able to see whatever secrets he has tried so hard to hide.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.