The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Saturday demanded that the Internal Revenue Service hand over the president’s tax returns by April 23.
“I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding my request and the authority of the committee. Those concerns lack merit. Moreover, judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the committee’s request,” wrote Rep. Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose department oversees the IRS, told reporters at the conclusion of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington that the deadline was “arbitrary.”
“This is a decision that has enormous precedence in potentially weaponizing the IRS,” Mnuchin said, according to The Wall Street Journal (paywall). “The implications of this is way beyond, in my mind, a congressional oversight issue and a president issue. The issue is, I feel a responsibility that we get this right and the IRS does not become weaponized like it was under the Nixon administration.
Neal’s initial request for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns called on the IRS to deliver the documents by April 10. Trump told reporters that he wouldn’t release his returns because he remained under audit. Mnuchin previously said he was consulting with the Justice Department about the law and whether Neal had a legislative purpose for the request.
In his letter, Neal said the law is “unambiguous and raises no complicated legal issues that warrant supervision or review” the Treasury Department or the Justice Department.
The statute says that upon a written request for any individual’s return from the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, the Treasury secretary “shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request.”
In the letter, Neal said he expected a reply from the IRS by 5 p.m. on April 23. “Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,” he wrote.