House Democrat issues subpoenas for Trump tax returns, sets deadline

By ANDREW TAYLOR

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A top House Democrat on Friday issued subpoenas for six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, giving Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig a deadline of next Friday to deliver them.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., issued the subpoenas days after Mnuchin refused to comply with demands to turn over Trump’s returns. Mnuchin told the panel he wouldn’t provide Trump’s tax records because the panel’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” as Supreme Court precedent requires.

Neal reminded the two Trump appointees in a Friday letter that federal law states that the IRS “shall furnish” the tax returns of any individual upon the request of the chairmen of Congress’ tax-writing committees and that Ways and Means “has never been denied” a request.

The White House and the Democratic-controlled House are waging a multi-front battle over investigations into Trump and the administration has been refusing to comply across the board, refusing to comply with subpoenas for the unredacted report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and documents related to the testimony by former White House Counsel Donald McGahn.

If Mnuchin and Rettig refuse to comply with the subpoenas, Neal is likely to file a lawsuit in federal court. He indicated earlier this week that he was leaning toward filing a court case immediately but changed course after meeting with lawyers for the House.

Neal originally demanded access to Trump’s tax returns in early April. He maintains that the committee is looking into the effectiveness of IRS mandatory audits of tax returns of all sitting presidents, a way to justify his claim that the panel has a potential legislative purpose. Democrats are confident in their legal justification and say Trump is stalling in an attempt to punt the issue past the 2020 election.

In rejecting Neal’s request earlier this week, Mnuchin said he relied on the advice of the Justice Department. He concluded that the Treasury Department is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.” Mnuchin has also said that Neal’s request would potentially weaponize private tax returns for political purposes.

Republicans say Neal is using the arcane 1924 law that empowers him to obtain any individual’s tax filing to play politics with Trump. Democrats also want to probe into Trump’s business dealings, particularly his business relationships with foreigners and to see who he owes money to.

“Your request is merely a means to access and make public the tax returns of a single individual for purely political purposes,” said ranking Ways and Means panel Republican Kevin Brady, R-Texas.