WASHINGTON — Democrats on the House Ways & Means Committee issued a subpoena for President Donald Trump’s tax returns, taking the fight over the commander in chief’s personal finances to a new level.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has repeatedly refused to turn over the tax returns, which Democrats say they need for the purpose of examining the Internal Revenue Service’s auditing process of presidential taxes. The refusal has angered Democrats, who are ramping up investigations across many areas of the Trump administration.
Democrats sent the subpoena to Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.
“Last month, the Ways and Means Committee began an investigation into the mandatory audit program at the IRS in an effort to assess the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the federal tax laws against a sitting President and to determine if those audits need to be codified into federal law,” Ways & Means Chairman Richard Neal said in a statement.
“As part of that inquiry, on April 3, I requested six years of the President’s personal and business tax returns, pursuant to my authority under section 6103(f) of the IRS Code. I believed then, as I do now, that reviewing the requested documents is a necessary piece of the committee’s work.”
“Unfortunately, the Treasury Department and the IRS have denied my reasonable request. Despite the agency’s denial, we on the Ways and Means Committee are still moving forward with our inquiry,” he added.
“After reviewing the options available to me, and upon the advice of counsel, I issued subpoenas today to the Secretary of the Treasury and the Commissioner of the IRS for six years of personal and business returns. While I do not take this step lightly, I believe this action gives us the best opportunity to succeed and obtain the requested material. I sincerely hope that the Treasury Department will furnish the requested material in the next week so the committee can quickly begin its work.”
The committee requested Trump’s tax returns in March, citing section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, which says that the Treasury Department “shall furnish” 10 years of tax returns to one of three congressional committees: House Ways & Means, the Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation.
But each request sent to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig has been interceded by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. According to Mnuchin, who in his capacity as chief tax collector has consulted with the Department of Justice, the administration is not allowed to hand over the tax returns for the reasons Neal has given.
Mnuchin also angered Democrats for ignoring their deadlines for the request and unilaterally setting his own. Since the Treasury Secretary’s formal rejection in early May, Democrats have been strategizing about their next steps.
But Republicans are also not happy, characterizing Neal’s requests as a politically motivated abuse of authority.
“Such actions would be an abuse of the Committee’s oversight powers and further examples of the Democrat majority’s coordinated attempt to weaponize the tax code and use Congress’s legitimate oversight authority for political gain,” said Rep. Kevin Brady in a statement earlier on Friday. “It has been made clear that this information is not being sought to further a valid legislative purpose, but instead to try to embarrass a political enemy.”
The ramped up quest for Trump’s tax returns also comes at the same time other committees are getting deeper into their probes of the administration. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over an unredacted special counsel report.
Other House committees, including both Oversight and Financial Services, are probing Trump’s personal finances. But each have been met with ardent resistance from the president and his team.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has repeatedly said that Democrats will “never” get their hands on Trump’s tax returns. Now that fight is getting more heated by the day.