WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that the fight over President Trump’s tax returns will likely go to court.
“There’s a difference in interpretation between Congress and us and the Department of Justice around this law that not only impacts this president and this Congress, but has a very big impact on every single taxpayer in weaponizing the IRS,” Mnuchin said at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill.
“This is why there are three branches of government, so if there’s a difference of opinion this will go to the third branch of government to be resolved,” he said, referring to the courts.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, initially requested Trump’s returns by relying on a 1924 law that gives his committee the power to request the tax returns of any filer from the Treasury Department.
Upon getting them, lawmakers can view the returns in closed session. After Mnuchin missed two deadlines – and then sent a letter announcing he wouldn’t give them up – on Friday Neal announced he planned to issue a subpoena.
Raising the stakes, Mnuchin suggested Wednesday he planned to reject that subpoena.
“We haven’t made a decision, but I think you can guess which way we’re leaning on our subpoena,” Mnuchin told the senators.
Mnuchin voiced concerns that if Trump’s tax returns could be given to Congress it would set a precedent to allow lawmakers’ access to the returns of their political enemies.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who was leading the hearing, used the example of requesting the returns of all the 2020 Democratic candidates. “How much confidence to you think the American people will have in the Internal Revenue Service … if we started doing that in this country?” Kennedy mused.
Mnuchin also told lawmakers that he wasn’t taking directives from the president in blocking the release of Trump’s returns.
“I have not discussed this with the president or anybody at the White House,” Mnuchin said. “I have not had any discussions with the president or taken any direction from him or anybody else in White House on this issue,” he added.