Whistleblower gives House Dems evidence of "inappropriate" conduct on Trump tax returns

House Democrats say a federal employee has given them evidence of "inappropriate efforts" on Trump tax audit

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published August 23, 2019 5:00AM (EDT)


A federal employee turned over “credible” evidence to House Democrats of possible “inappropriate efforts to influence” the IRS presidential audit process, House lawyers said in a court filing Tuesday.

In July, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., sued Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin after the latter rejected the panel’s request for six years of Trump’s tax returns. On Tuesday, House lawyers cited the new evidence in a motion asking a federal judge to rule without trial that the Treasury Department is required by law to turn over the president’s tax returns. 

The motion included a letter from Neal to Mnuchin revealing that the committee in July received an “unsolicited communication” from a federal employee “setting forth credible allegations of ‘evidence of possible misconduct’ — specifically, potential ‘inappropriate efforts to influence’ the mandatory audit program,” Politico reported.

In a response two weeks later, Mnuchin rejected Neal’s request for records related to the matter and urged him to take it up with the IRS inspector general. 

House lawyers said in the motion Tuesday that the new evidence has heightened the need for the committee to receive Trump’s tax returns. The IRS is required to audit the president and vice president each year. Democrats argue that the new evidence requires them to see Trump’s tax returns to ensure the IRS audit process is legitimate.

“The Committee needs the requested information to evaluate the integrity of the IRS’s existing program for auditing Presidents’ tax returns — a need only heightened by the Committee’s receipt of whistleblower allegations about improper influence in that program,” the attorneys said. 

Attorneys for Trump did not address the allegations but submitted their own filing asking the judge to delay any decision on the House motion, arguing that significant legal issues still needed to be worked out. The administration has argued the tax return request serves no legislative purpose.

"All told, it took the Committee 180 days to bring this suit (and still another 49 days after that before moving for summary judgment), with little to no explanation for its leisurely pace," the Trump attorneys said in their filing. "The Committee’s purported desire to consider legislation regarding the Presidential audit process does not require that the Court suddenly bring these proceedings to a gallop."

But the House filing said that the new evidence shows that “time is of the essence,” Reuters reported. Neal would not allude to what the evidence was but offered to provide it to the court. 

Trump is also suing Neal and New York officials to keep his tax returns under wraps after state lawmakers passed a new law allowing Trump’s state tax returns to be turned over to the House Ways and Means Committee. On Monday, Trump’s lawyers bizarrely requested that the case be moved from New York, where the law was passed, to Washington, D.C., The Hill reported.

“The District is where the [New York law] is aimed and where the President’s injury and virtually all of the relevant conduct will occur,” Trump’s lawyers said in a filing. 

Attorneys for New York Attorney General Letitia James and tax official Michael Schmidt, who are named in the lawsuit, argued that the District of Columbia has no jurisdiction over state laws or tax returns.

The case has been put on hold while it is settled in the courts. Neal has said he would not use the New York law to get Trump’s tax returns out of concern that it would damage the committee’s federal case.

Trump and the Republican National Committee also filed another lawsuit this month challenging a new California law that requires all presidential candidates to submit their tax returns in order to appear on the ballot.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement that there is an easier way for Trump to get rid of the tax return headaches than filing lawsuits around the country.

“There’s an easy fix for the President,” Newsom said. “He should release his tax returns as he promised during the campaign and follow the precedent of every president since 1973.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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