Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, rejects Democrats' demand for Donald Trump tax returns

Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, rejects Democrats' demand for Donald Trump tax returns

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has made it official: The administration won't be turning President Donald Trump's tax returns over to the Democratic-controlled House.

In a letter sent on Monday to the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mnuchin wrote, "I have determined that the committee's request lacks a legitimate legislative goal, and pursuant to section 6103, the department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information".

Mnuchin said in his letter that he relied on "the advice of the Department of Justice" in making this determination.

The Treasury Secretary went on to claim in the May letter that, contra assertions by House Democrats and legal scholars familiar with the underlying statute, that "the Department may not lawfully fulfill the Committee's request".

He said the Justice Department will provide a more detailed legal justification soon. The chief options available to Democrats now are to subpoena the IRS for the returns or to file a lawsuit.

The bill must also still be approved by the state's assembly and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), but Cuomo has expressed support for the measure and Democrats have a majority in the legislature's lower chamber.

Other Democrats on the panel were less restrained.

Neal said in a statement Monday he would "consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response".

Legal analysts say, however, that there is no prohibition on revealing tax returns that are under audit.

After Neal first issued the request, the Trump Administration immediately suggested that it would fail to comply with the request, with Mnuchin blowing off two deadlines imposed by Neal to hand over the tax information. If the matter does end up before the courts then the committee will be required to specify what the "legitimate legislative purpose" is for its request of the President's confidential tax returns.

Ahead of the vote on the tax returns bill, the Senate approved legislation created to ensure that a presidential pardon doesn't cover similar criminal charges filed at the state level.

"What's unprecedented is this secretary refusing to comply with our lawful ... request. What's unprecedented is a Justice Department that again sees its role as being bodyguard to the executive and not the rule of law", said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.

"The president also has told people near to him which the attempt to receive his yields was an invasion of his privacy and a further instance of what he calls the Democrat-led" witch hunt" - like special counsel Robert Mueller's stunt - supposed to harm him.

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