Donald Trump's treasury secretary informed the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee he would not meet the Wednesday's deadline to hand over the president's tax returns.
In a politically-charged letter informing Chairman Richard E. Neal the Treasury Department would not finish its review of his request for Trump's private tax return information by April 10, Secretary Steve Mnuchin attacked House Democrats for demanding the president's "confidential" information and cited the previous Republican leaders of the Ways and Means Committee to justify not fulfilling their request.
"In the last Congress, the Committee on Ways and Means issued a formal report concerning a House resolution of inquiry seeking information substantially similar to the information you request," Mnuchin wrote. "The Committee determined that such a request would be an 'abuse of authority' and 'set a dangerous precedent by targeting a single individual's confidential tax returns and associated financial documents for disclosure' for political reasons."
Mnuchin argued the law being cited by House Democrats, according to the previous Congress, "may not be used 'for purposes of embarrassing or attacking political figures of another party.'" Mnuchin also quoted Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, as describing the requests for Trump's tax returns as "lacking the requisite 'legitimate political purpose' and as 'Nixonian to the core.'"
"You too have acknowledged the unprecedented nature of this request. As you stated in October 2018 with respect to this long-planned inquiry, '[t]his has never happened before, so you want to be very meticulous.' We share that caution, and we agree that this is not a routine section 6103(f) request. The Committee's request raises serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of Congressional legislative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose and the constitutional rights of American citizens," Mnuchin added. "The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically-motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power."
The defiant tone of Mnuchin's letter was foreshadowed on Tuesday when he appeared before the House Appropriations Committee.
"There is a requirement for presidents to have financial disclosure. I believe this president has complied with that, as other people, and the general public when they elected President Trump made the decision to elect him without his tax returns being released," Mnuchin told the committee.
He later added, "I am sure there are many prominent Democrats who are relieved that when Kevin Brady was chairman of the [House Ways and Means] committee that he didn't request specific returns. But anyway, it is a pleasure to be here with you today."
In a statement last week, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass. explained that "I today submitted to IRS Commissioner Rettig my request for six years of the president's personal tax returns, as well as the returns for some of his business entities. We have completed the necessary groundwork for a request of this magnitude, and I am certain we are within our legitimate legislative, legal and oversight rights."
In response to this, Trump told reporters that "we're under audit despite what people said. We're working that out, as I'm always under audit, it seems. But I've been under audit, because the numbers are big. And I guess when you have a name, you're audited. But until such time as I'm not under audit, I would not be inclined to do that."