Washington, May 18: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has rejected a subpoena from House Democrats demanding President Donald Trump’s tax returns in six years, setting the stage for a court battle over the documents.
In a letter sent to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Mnuchin on Friday said that the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” and that he would not authorize the release of Trump’s personal and business tax returns to the Congress, the Washington Post reported.
“The Committee’s request is unprecedented and it presents serious constitutional questions, the resolution of which may have lasting consequences for all taxpayers,” he wrote.
The Chairman of the committee issued subpoenas last week that gave Mnuchin and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig a deadline of Friday (5 p.m.) to turn over Trump’s financial records.
House Democrats have expressed confidence the law requires the IRS to permit them to access the tax returns, a position supported by numerous legal experts, the report said.
Democrats claim that Trump’s business dealings present a host of potential conflicts of interest that they can’t understand without his tax information.
Mnuchin’s refusal to turn over Trump’s tax returns may be the last step before a federal court fight over Trump’s financial records, the source of significant speculation since he refused to release them during the 2016 presidential campaign in a break with decades of precedent.
Neal is expected to soon sue the administration in federal court to enforce the subpoenas, according to the Post.
“A lawsuit is the next step. There’s no negotiation here,” said Steve Rosenthal, an expert at the Tax Policy Centre, a non-partisan think tank.
Mnuchin and congressional Republicans cited concerns over taxpayer privacy in denying the request, accusing Democrats of seeking to “weaponize” the IRS.
The administration has not made public the Justice Department’s legal guidance on the question of the president’s tax returns.
In response to Mnuchin’s letter, Neal said that the law “provides clear statutory authority” for the Ways and Means Committee to review the returns, adding he would consult with legal counsel on the next step.
Neal first demanded six years of Trump’s personal and business returns, from 2013 to 2018, in letters to the administration last month.