The Treasury Department refused to meet the deadline to hand over six years of Trump's tax returns to Congress.
On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin sent a letter to Congress refusing to allow the IRS to hand over six years of Trump's tax returns by the April 10 deadline. While Mnuchin did not deny the congressional demand, he said he needs more time to consult with attorneys at the Department of Justice before deciding whether or not to follow the law.
Mnuchin claims the demand for Trump's tax returns, which was sent to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, "raises serious issues concerning the constitutional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose and the constitutional rights of American citizens." Mnuchin added that he would now take over and ultimately decide whether to comply with the demand sent to the IRS on April 4 by Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chair of the Ways and Means Committee.
The committee is seeking six years of Trump's personal tax returns, as well as the returns of some of Trump's businesses. Neal has the authority to demand any tax returns, based on a 1920s-era law that has been used multiple times by members of both political parties.
Mnuchin's interference and delay tactics did not sit well with some members of Congress.
"How many lawyers and how much time does it take for Secretary Mnuchin to understand that 'shall' means 'shall'?" said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX). Doggett is referring to the plain language of the law giving Neal authority to demand tax returns, which states that the treasury secretary "shall" provide Congress with the requested information.
"Again, believing that he is above the law, Trump is engaged in obstruction," Doggett added.
In Neal's response, he made clear that his letter was to the IRS commissioner, not Mnuchin. "I will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response to the commissioner in the coming days," Neal said in a short statement.
Mnuchin embarrassed himself on this issue during recent congressional testimony. In closing remarks to the House Financial Services and General Government subcommittee of the Appropriations committee, Mnuchin noted that no Republicans ever demanded President Obama's returns when Republicans controlled Congress.
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), chair of the subcommittee, quickly reminded Mnuchin that Obama had publicly released his tax returns when he was a presidential candidate. In fact, Trump is the first president since Richard Nixon not to release his tax returns.
If Trump followed the lead of President Obama and the presidents before him, there would be no need for Congress to make this demand. But now, rather than follow the law and seek some measure of transparency, Trump would rather go to whatever lengths possible to keep his tax returns hidden.
And so far, Mnuchin is willing to help him no matter what the law says.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.