‘Deadline’ set by Democrats for Trump tax returns today nearly certain to be missed

by - 3 min read

‘Deadline’ set by Democrats for Trump tax returns today nearly certain to be missed

by - 3 min read


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that his department intends to “follow the law” and is reviewing a request by a top House Democrat to provide President Donald Trump’s tax returns to lawmakers.

But in Capitol Hill appearances on Tuesday, Mnuchin dodged answering whether he would comply with the request to supply Trump’s tax returns by Wednesday, and he also said he has not promised to authorize the IRS to supply the returns.

“I have said, ‘We will comply with the law,'” Mnuchin told the House Financial Services Committee. “I have not made a comment one way or the other on whether we will provide the tax returns.”

The head of the IRS, meanwhile, agreed with Democrats that it’s primarily his decision to make — though he reports to Mnuchin. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told lawmakers that “we’re working on” a response to a request from Ways and Means committee chair Richard Neal.

The decision is mine with the supervision of Treasury.– Charles Rettig, IRS commissioner

“The decision is mine with the supervision of Treasury,” Rettig said, adding he and Mnuchin have discussed who would handle the response but haven’t reached a conclusion.

Rettig returns to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, appearing before the Senate finance committee.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig is set to return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, where Democrats on a Senate panel could press him on the agency’s independence from the administration and the request for Trump tax returns. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

Mnuchin also revealed that Treasury Department lawyers have talked to the White House counsel’s office about the question of releasing Trump’s returns, telling lawmakers that the consultations occurred before the request arrived last week. Mnuchin said the conversations were “purely informational,” and he has not been briefed on their content.

Mnuchin told a House panel that he personally has not had any communications with the president or his top staff about the department’s decision on whether to provide Trump’s tax returns under a nearly century-old law that says the Treasury Department “shall furnish” them when requested by top lawmakers.

“I have had no direct conversations with the president or anybody else” at the White House, Mnuchin told the Financial Service panel Tuesday afternoon. He said that members of Treasury’s legal team had had consultations on the matter before the tax return request was made but that the Treasury officials had not sought any type of permission to release the returns.

“We would never ask for the White House’s permission on this,” Mnuchin said.

“It is our intent to follow the law and that is in the process of being reviewed,” Mnuchin told a House appropriations subcommittee with responsibility for his budget.

Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts, requested the returns last week in a letter to Mnuchin and set a deadline of Wednesday to provide them. Mnuchin says he “looks forward to responding,” but it appears clear that Treasury won’t meet the deadline and actually produce the returns.

Chief of staff adamantly opposed

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that lawmakers will “never” see Trump’s returns. But the White House is supposed to stay out of the decision, and Rettig said he’s had no contact with anyone there.

Financial Services chair Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California, citing a long list of Trump administration officials who have departed, pressed Mnuchin on whether he was worried about being fired if he complied with the request.

I am not afraid of being fired at all. I want to be clear that we will follow the law.– Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary

“I am not afraid of being fired at all,” Mnuchin said. “I want to be clear that we will follow the law.”

Neal requested six years of Trump’s personal and business returns, relying on a 1924 statute that says the Treasury Department “shall furnish” them when requested. The IRS is part of Treasury.

Trump has broken with tradition by not voluntarily releasing his tax returns. He routinely says — as he did Friday — that he’s under audit and therefore won’t release his returns. But Rettig reiterated that there’s no rule prohibiting taxpayers under audit from releasing their returns.

Republican members of the panels rose to Trump’s defence.

“We have no evidence of anything nefarious. We have no evidence that there’s any wrongdoing,” said Chris Stewart, Republican from Utah.

Stewart said the request tramples on Trump’s right to privacy.

Democrats want access to the returns as part of investigations into Trump’s business dealings and his campaign. Trump’s private attorneys have asked Treasury to deny the request as well.

During the 2016 campaign, Rettig defended Trump’s decision to break with tradition by refusing to release his tax filings.

Under questioning at his confirmation hearing last August, Rettig pledged to uphold the political independence of the IRS.

This story originally appeared on CBC