House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has taken the next step in the fight by Democratic lawmakers to obtain President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Neal on Saturday sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig demanding six years of Trump’s personal tax returns, along with filings for eight other Trump-related entities, by April 23. A previous deadline set by Neal for April 10 was missed. That day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he couldn’t meet the deadline because he was consulting with Justice Department lawyers, according to Politico.
In March, Mnuchin said he’d likely block lawmakers’ efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns, citing taxpayer privacy, although he added that he would follow the law after consulting with the Justice Department. However, a missed April 23 deadline could set up a lengthy court battle if Neal takes the next step of issuing a subpoena for the documents.
Trump has said he will not release his tax returns, although according to the law cited by Neal, the decision isn’t his to make. The president has repeatedly claimed that he can’t release his tax returns because he’s under audit, but there also is no law saying he can’t do so while being audited. It’s not even clear if Trump is actually being audited.
Neal is seeking Trump’s returns from 2013 to 2018.
“I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding my request and the authority of the Committee,” Neal wrote in his letter to the IRS commissioner. “Those concerns lack merit. Moreover, judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the Committee’s request.”
He added: “It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury, or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the Committee or its reasonable determinations regarding its need for the requested tax returns and return information.”
“That’s an issue that was already litigated during the election,” he said. “Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns. They knew that he didn’t and they elected him anyway.”
The White House and the Justice Department have not yet commented on Neal’s latest deadline.
In related news, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings on Friday moved closer to issuing a subpoena for 10 years of Trump’s financial records from the accounting firm Mazars USA, Politico reported.
In a memo to committee members, Cummings said he would issue the subpoena on Monday. The purpose of the memo, he said, was to allow committee members 48 hours to “convey their views.”
To justify the subpoena, Cummings cited testimony in February by Trump’s former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, who testified under oath that Trump had altered the value of his assets and liabilities for his own personal gain.
Mazars USA, Trump’s accounting firm, had requested that Cummings issue a “friendly subpoena” in order for the company to comply with the committee’s request, according to The Washington Post.
Cummings’ memo also criticized the committee’s ranking Republican member, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, for contacting Mazars and urging the company not to comply with the committee’s request.
“It is not an understatement to call the Ranking Member’s action unprecedented,” Cummings wrote. “In my entire tenure in Congress, regardless of how much I and my Democratic colleagues may have disagreed with the Committee’s actions, I never would have publicly encouraged noncompliance by a custodian of records. Obviously, such actions undermine the authority of the Committee and impair its investigations.”