Democrats Sue Trump Administration For Access To The President’s Tax Returns

Audrey Conklin on July 2, 2019

House Democrats filed a lawsuit Tuesday against President Donald Trump to gain access to his tax returns.

Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Richard E. Neal filed suit against the IRS Tuesday morning, The Washington Post reported.

“Defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people who participate in the Nation’s voluntary tax system,” the lawsuit states.

“Numerous investigative reports have revealed that President Trump … has engaged in multiple aggressive tax strategies and decades-long tax avoidance schemes,” the suit continues. “Congress and the Committee, however, have thus far been unable to … assess if and how President Trump has been able to take inappropriate advantage of the tax laws.”

Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, also sent a request for the president’s tax return information to the Department of Justice on April 3 for Trump’s business and personal tax returns from 2013 to 2018. He cites a law that says the IRS “shall furnish” the tax returns of any citizen to the country’s top lawmakers.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has denied multiple requests from Democrats asking for access to Trump’s tax returns and rejected a subpoena from the Ways and Means Committee in May. Republicans argue Democrats’ request for the information is not legitimate but a politically motivated attack. 

The Supreme Court declared in the 1957 case Watkins v. U.S. that Congress has no “general authority” to expose “private affairs.”

“Broad as is [Congress’] power of inquiry, it is not unlimited,” the court stated. “There is no general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of the Congress.”

Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Engel called Neal’s request “an unprecedented use of the Committee’s authority” in a June 13 opinion letter.

“The chairman’s request that Treasury turn over the president’s tax returns, for the apparent purpose of making them public, amounted to an unprecedented use of the Committee’s authority and raised a serious risk of abuse,” Engel said.

“Under the facts and circumstances, the Secretary of the Treasury reasonably and correctly concluded that the Committee’s asserted interest in reviewing the Internal Revenue Service’s audits of presidential returns was pretextual and that its true aim was to make the President’s tax returns public, which is not a legitimate legislative purpose,” Engel continued in the letter.

Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said Democrats will “never” see Trump’s returns during an April appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The Democrats are demanding that the IRS turn over the documents and that is not going to happen, and they know it,” Mulvaney told guest host Bill Hemmer. “This is a political stunt by my former colleagues. … They know the terms under law by which the IRS can give them documents but a political hit job is not one of those reasons.”

DCwire features investigative reporting syndicated with permission from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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