A House committee issued subpoenas today ordering Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig to turn over President Trump’s tax returns by next Friday at 5 p.m.

House Ways and Means Chair Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) authorized the subpoenas following months of disagreements with the Trump administration over whether federal law mandates Congress can obtain the records.

“The IRS is under a mandatory obligation to provide the information requested,” the subpoena states. “The IRS has had more than four weeks to comply with the Committee’s straightforward request. Therefore, please see the enclosed subpoena.”

Trump had promised to release his tax returns prior to announcing his candidacy, but later refused to release them in a break with decades of precedent from previous presidents.

Trump had chided GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in late 2012 for not releasing his tax returns quickly enough before the election.

Legal experts have said Mnuchin’s refusal to turn over the returns is unprecedented, noting a 1924 law explicitly gives lawmakers the authority to seek the records.

The subpoenas come amid a widening legal conflict between House Democrats and the White House over a range of oversight issues, with the administration invoking executive privilege to prevent Trump’s former counsel from giving certain records to Congress.

Neal first demanded six years of Trump’s personal and business returns, from 2013 to 2018, in letters to the administration this April.

Neal’s subpoenas demand Mnuchin and Rettig turn over Trump’s individual income tax returns, all “administrative files” such as affidavits for those income tax returns, and income tax returns for a number of Trump’s business holdings, such as the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, an umbrella entity that controls dozens of other businesses, such as the Mar-A-Lago club in Florida

The Trump administration has rejected Democrats’ requests for the president’s tax returns as violations of taxpayer privacy, with an attorney hired by the president and congressional Republicans echoing similar concerns. Mnuchin repeatedly asked for more time to respond to Neal’s request before rejecting it outright earlier this month.

“I think we’re coming to the point where we’re running out of letters to write,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, in an interview on Thursday.

If Mnuchin and Rettig do not turn over the returns, Neal could respond by going to a congressional body to authorize a lawsuit in federal court against the two Trump administration officials.

That body, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, is controlled by Democrats.

The subpoena could bolster Neal’s position in federal court because it will help him demonstrate he pursued all possible avenues to obtain the returns before filing a lawsuit against the administration, said Steve Rosenthal, a legal expert at the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think-tank.

That, at least in theory, will make it less likely for the court to strike down his claim on procedural grounds.

“A week now could save many months later,” Rosenthal said.

 

Attribution:The Washington Post
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