WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department on Tuesday once again rejected requests from Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee for the Internal Revenue Service to provide the committee with six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, ramping up the ongoing fight over the president’s personal finances.
Trump has repeatedly refused to release his tax returns, either voluntarily or under official request from Congress. The latest refusal by the Treasury Department, of which the IRS is part, signals the fight is far from over.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal to inform him that the tax returns would not be turned over by the Democrats’ Thursday deadline.
Mnuchin said the Treasury Department was checking with the Justice Department to determine whether the request to hand over Trump’s tax returns was legal.
“Due to the serious constitutional questions raised by this request and the serious consequences that a resolution of those questions could have for taxpayer privacy, the Department is consulting with the Department of Justice,” Mnuchin said. “Although federal law establishes no deadline for a response to your request, we expect to provide the Committee with a final decision by May 6, after receiving the Justice Department’s legal conclusions.”
Neal said in a statement he would be discussing next steps with his counsel. This could include subpoenas for the documents, according to a Democratic aide.
The final decision came after the White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Tuesday morning they would not be complying with the request.
“The president is pretty clear once he’s out of audit he’ll think about doing it, but he is not inclined to do so at this time,” he said during an appearance on Fox News. “No one cares about ridiculous charges about tax returns and all types of other things that Democrats are doubling down on today.”
Gidley’s comments do not square with the Democrats’ rationale for making the request, which is to provide oversight of the auditing process for presidents.
Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee had previously asked IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to provide the returns by April 10. But when that date rolled around, Trump said he would not be releasing his returns and that the American public does not care about them. The committee then requested them again, setting a deadline of April 23.
Meanwhile, Republicans have been fighting the Democrats’ request. GOP lawmakers have urged Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee to drop the request, citing privacy issues. This is despite the fact that Republicans on the same committee revealed private tax information of US citizens during their own probes in 2014.
Still, Democrats are not at all likely to drop their fight to dig into Trump’s personal finances. During a February hearing with the House Ways and Means Committee’s subcommittee on oversight, Republicans and Democrats feuded over the legality of taking Trump’s taxes for scrutiny.
“We’re not interested in getting someone. We’re interested in following the law. Period,” Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey said. “Give us the chance to do that. What am I saying? Give us a chance to follow the law, and we will not stop.”