On Monday afternoon, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin officially informed Congress that he would not turn over six years of Trump’s tax returns — opting to protect Trump’s shady finances rather than uphold the rule of law.
“In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” Mnuchin wrote. After making this determination, Mnuchin then said that the Treasury Department is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.”
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chair of the Ways and Means Committee, sent a letter to the IRS last month demanding six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. Neal cited a 1920s-era law allowing Congress obtain any person’s tax returns from the IRS, so long as the request comes from the chair of either the House Ways and Means Committee or the Senate Finance Committee.
The law is clear, stating, “the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified.”
According to legal experts, Mnuchin is breaking the law.
“A reading of the plain language of the tax code indicates that Congress does in fact have the legal authority to request and obtain tax information from any filer, including the president,” Jessica Levinson, law professor at Loyola Law School, told Vox in April. “Therefore, if Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the Treasury, refuses Congress’s request, he would be violating the law.”
In early April, Mnuchin hinted that he was willing to ignore the law to cover up Trump’s possible misdeeds. In an April 10 letter to Neal, Mnuchin said that the request “raises serious issues concerning the constitutional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose and the constitutional rights of American citizens.”
Legal scholars disagree with Mnuchin’s excuse.
“This is not an issue on which there is any possibility of reasonable disagreement,” Daniel Shaviro, a law professor at New York University, told Vox in mid-April. “Any well-informed person who disagrees either that the Ways and Means Committee has an obligation to demand Trump’s tax returns as part of fulfilling its oversight duties or that Trump is legally obliged to turn them over is either a partisan hack or contemptuous of the rule of law.”
Neal said Monday that he would consult with counsel to determine an appropriate response. It’s possible he could issue a subpoena for Trump’s taxes, or take Treasury to court in order to force Mnuchin to hand them over.
Trump is the first presidential candidate in decades to refuse to make his tax returns publicly available. When he entered the campaign, Trump promised on multiple occasions to release his taxes. But he lied.
What is Mnuchin helping Trump hide from the public? Possibly a lot.
In congressional testimony, Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and “fixer,” said Trump regularly lied about his wealth in order to obtain loans. Cohen also said Trump lied about his wealth to avoid paying taxes.
In response to questions from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cohen suggested Congress would need Trump’s tax returns to see whether and how often Trump broke the law.
Americans deserve to know this information about Trump — and Congress has the legal authority to find out.
Published with permission of The American Independent.