Congress has demanded and obtained presidential tax records in the past, despite claims by the Trump administration that the current effort is 'unprecedented.'
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) released new evidence Thursday showing Congress has used its legal authority to demand and obtain presidential tax returns in the past, contrary to claims by the Trump administration that the recent request is "unprecedented."
"The Committee today submitted materials to the House showing that Section 6103 was used by a tax committee to access President Nixon's tax returns," Neal, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.
"The IRS provided those returns the same day," he added.
Section 6103 is the part of a 1920s-era law giving certain congressional committees the authority to demand and receive any person's tax returns from the IRS. Neal cited this statute in an April 3 letter to the IRS demanding six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns.
The evidence Neal refers to was part of a July 23 letter from the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) to Neal showing that the JCT "sought and received, under its legal authority, confidential information directly from the Internal Revenue Service." The letter from JCT says Nixon voluntarily handed over some of his tax returns, but the JCT had to resort to its legal authority under section 6103 to obtain additional records.
For more than 100 days, the IRS and Treasury Department have refused to comply with Neal's demand. In his May 6 response to Neal, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the committee's request "unprecedented" and said it "presents serious constitutional questions."
As Neal points out in his statement, there is precedent for Congress receiving presidential tax returns, without any apparent "constitutional questions."
"It is noted in the materials that these returns [from previous years] were necessary because they were related to later tax years. This is precisely why we requested returns prior to 2017 for President Trump," Neal said.
Even before Mnuchin sent his letter on May 6, legal scholars said he had no legal authority to withhold Trump's taxes.
"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 professor at Loyola Law School, told Vox in April. "Therefore, if Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the Treasury, refuses Congress's request, he would be violating the law."
When asked for comment about the new evidence, Dana Bye, campaign director of the Tax March, expressed concerns about Trump's lack of respect for the rule of law.
"It's plain to see that the unprecedented actions in this situation have come from Trump and his administration, and not Congress," Bye told Shareblue Media in a statement. "Time and time again, the president and his team have shown us that they will stop at nothing — including lying about history — to hide his tax returns from the American public."
A few days before the new evidence emerged, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) told Shareblue that the administration's refusal to comply with Neal's demand "display[s] contempt for the people, for the Congress, and for the Constitution."
"This administration acts like they are above the law," Chu, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said. "But they are not above the law. The law is clear."
The new evidence released by Neal, plus the plain reading of the law, paints a picture of Mnuchin blatantly defying the law.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.