Trump lawyer disputes Dem rationale for requesting tax returns

An attorney for 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 wrote to the Treasury Department on Monday to push back against Democrats seeking to obtain the president's tax returns, saying the request by a top lawmaker is not for any legislative purpose.

William Consovoy, who is representing Trump in the tax fight with Democrats, wrote to the general counsel of the Treasury to refute 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's (D-Mass.) argument from two days earlier that the panel is authorized by law to see a copy of the president's returns from 2013 to 2018.

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“That it is limited to a single President, seeks tax information from before the President took office, asks no questions about IRS policy, and does not even wait for the IRS to finish its ongoing examinations (and any resulting appeals) reveals that Chairman Neal’s request is nothing more than an attempt to exercise constitutional authority that Congress does not possess,” Consovoy wrote in a letter to Brent McIntosh, general counsel at the Treasury Department.

Consovoy argued that Neal's reasons for seeking Trump's returns are inadequate and that "no one actually believes" that the committee chairman is seeking the documents for a legislative purpose. Lawmakers' motives are relevant to their request, he added.

He also said that "Congress has no constitutional authority to act like a junior-varsity IRS, rerunning individual examinations or flyspecking the agency’s calculations."

Neal on Saturday set a new date for the IRS to turn over six years' worth of Trump's business and personal returns after the agency missed the initial deadline.

In his own letter to McIntosh on Saturday, Neal wrote that concerns about his request "lack merit" and that he expects a response from the IRS by 5 p.m. on April 23.

The Democratic chairman said that his committee is interested in the returns because it is considering legislative proposals and oversight relating to tax laws, including the extent to which the IRS enforces tax laws against a sitting president.

Democratic lawmakers on Monday pushed back on Trump's allies' criticism of Neal's request.

“There's no ways about it, that Richard Neal was very specific and very narrow in his question in his first letter,” Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellCongressional scorekeeper: Repealing SALT deduction cap would benefit high earners Democrats not keen to reignite Jerusalem embassy fight Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks MORE (D-N.J.), a Ways and Means Committee member, said on a call with reporters hosted by Tax March.

Another Ways and Means Committee member, Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access The Go-Go's rock the stage at annual 'We Write the Songs' DC concert Pelosi faces tipping point on Trump impeachment MORE (D-Calif.), said that "the law is clear" that the IRS has to provide returns requested by the chairman of the tax-writing panel.

Trump has insisted he will not voluntarily give up his tax 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. The IRS has said an audit does not prevent an individual from making their returns public.

Updated at 12:50 p.m.