Trump rejects giving Dems tax returns, citing audit

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE said Wednesday that he won’t release his tax returns while he’s under audit, setting the stage for a standoff among the White House, the Treasury Department and House Democrats.

“I would love to give them, but I’m not going to do it while I’m under audit,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for a trip to Texas.

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Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee set a Wednesday deadline for the Treasury Department to turn over six years' worth of Trump’s personal and business tax returns.

The agency has given no indication that it will meet that deadline, and Trump has insisted he will not voluntarily give up his returns. He has cited an ongoing audit, the same reason he gave when he broke with years of precedent and declined to release his returns during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump on Wednesday echoed the argument of his allies, who have pushed back against the Democratic request, suggesting the issue was litigated during the 2016 election and "frankly, the people don’t care."

"As you know, I got elected last time with the same issue, and while I’m under audit, I won’t do it," he said. "If I’m not under audit, I would do it. I have no problem with it, but while I’m under audit, I would not give my taxes."

The IRS has said that audits don’t prevent individuals from releasing their own tax information, and the agency has an internal policy to audit the sitting president. Trump has said that he's been under audit since before the election.

Democrats have pressed for Trump's returns, arguing they could reveal conflicts of interest or potential legal issues with the president's finances.

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are attempting to use a provision in the federal tax code that gives the chairmen of Congress’s tax committees the power to ask for any tax returns and return information.

The statute says that the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” the documents, as long as they are reviewed in a closed session. But it’s unclear if or when the IRS will provide House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTrump's tax returns — DOJ trying to put off the inevitable? Democrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law House panel approves bills on tax extenders, expanding tax credits MORE (D-Mass.) with the documents.

Neal said in his request that he wants the IRS to provide him with Trump's tax returns because the Ways and Means Committee is considering oversight and legislative proposals relating to how the agency audits presidents.

Republicans have scoffed at the effort, painting it as a play by Democrats to attack the president and raising concerns it could set a bad precedent for taxpayer privacy rights.

Trump's lawyer, William Consovoy, said in a letter to Treasury last week that it would be inappropriate for the IRS to provide Democrats with Trump's returns while they are under audit, calling audits "trial-like adjudications."

But supporters of the Democrats' request dispute the notion that audits are similar to trials, and have said that the Supreme Court has rejected that thinking.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinDemocratic lawmaker calls Trump a 'moron' for his handling of Iran Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need Congress to approve Iran strikes in interview with The Hill | New sanctions hit Iran's supreme leader | Schumer seeks to delay defense bill amid Iran tensions | Esper's first day as acting Pentagon chief Treasury inspector general to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills MORE testified to two congressional committees on Tuesday, telling lawmakers the White House had discussed the tax return issue with Treasury’s legal department before Democrats asked for the documents.

Mnuchin said he personally had not spoken to Trump over the tax returns.

“I think it would be premature at this point to make any specific comments other than, as I’ve been consistent before in saying, it is being reviewed by the legal departments, and we look forward to responding to the letter,” Mnuchin said at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

Naomi Jagoda contributed to this report, which was updated at 11:22 a.m.