Mnuchin says he'll 'follow the law' on Trump tax returns

Rep. Richard Neal leaves a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol Jan. 4 2019

"While I'm under audit, I won't do it", he added, ignoring that the IRS by law is mandated to release the tax returns of an American if requested by the Chairman of the House Way and Means Committee. The process is created to be walled off from White House interference, in part because of corruption that took place during the Teapot Dome scandal in the 1920s.

"The committee's request raises serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of Congressional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative objective, and the constitutional rights of American citizens", Mnuchin added in the letter. "I have no obligation to do that while under audit and no lawyer would tell you to release your tax returns while you're under audit". "We had obviously read in the press that we were expecting this".

In a hearing Wednesday morning before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Rettig declined to say whether he would comply with Democrats' request.

Mnuchin said they won't be able to meet the deadline set by the committee, telling Chairman Richard Neal he's consulting with the Department of Justice and making sure "our response is fully consistent with the law and the Constitution". The request was sent to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig.

Neal had faced mounting pressure from liberal members of his committee and from activist groups demanding that he issue the request, made under a 1924 law that empowers the heads of three congressional committees to request the returns of any filer.

Wyden went on to ask Rettig if he agreed that an IRS delegation order that the Treasury secretary does not get involved in taxpayer-specific issues means that it is "his job and his alone" to respond to Neal's request to release the returns.

"I have the gavel at this point", Waters said.

"We would not ever ask for the White House's permission on this nor did they give us the permission", he said. When Hillary Clinton accused him, during a 2016 debate, of not paying any federal income tax, Trump said, "that makes me smart". If the department refused to hand them over, Democrats would likely sue.

"We have received the letter, we're working on the letter with counsel, we anticipate to respond", Rettig testified.

Later in the hearing, Mnuchin criticized Democrats for requesting the tax returns, saying they should be glad Republicans did not seek the tax returns of Democrats when the GOP controlled the House of Representatives before the 2018 midterm elections.

Mnuchin then asked whether that meant the committee had been dismissed, to which Waters repeated: "If you wish to leave, you may leave", suggesting that the meeting would continue.

He did not explain who exactly he was referring to, but he said this list could include Democrats in Congress and their financial supporters outside Washington.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on Sunday that lawmakers will "never" see Trump's returns. The law says that if he wants the taxes, he should get them. But he has not provided information to substantiate that there is, in fact, an audit underway.

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