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Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns

The Treasury Department on Tuesday missed a second deadline from House Democrats to provide President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE’s tax returns.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience On The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed MORE said in a letter that the department can't act on the request "unless and until it is determined to be consistent with law."

He said that he expects Treasury to provide the House Ways and Means Committee with a final decision by May 6 after receiving legal conclusions from the Department of Justice.

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Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOvernight Health Care: Trump announces two moves aimed at lowering drug prices | Sturgis rally blamed for COVID-19 spread in Minnesota | Stanford faculty condemn Scott Atlas Trump announces two moves aimed at lowering drug prices IRS races to get remaining stimulus checks to low-income households MORE (D-Mass.) had given the IRS until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to comply with his request for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. Neal said earlier this month that he would view a failure to provide the returns by the deadline as a denial of his request.

Neal made the request for Trump’s tax returns under Section 6103 of the federal tax code, which states that the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” tax returns upon written request of the chairmen of Congress’s tax committees, provided that the documents are reviewed in a closed session.

The April 23 deadline was Neal’s second deadline for the administration to provide Trump’s tax documents, as it missed his initial deadline of April 10. At the time, Mnuchin said Treasury was unable to complete its review of Neal’s request by the initial deadline.

Neal said in a statement Tuesday that he plans “to consult with counsel about my next steps.”

Other Democrats vocally criticized Mnuchin’s comments. Ways and Means Committee member Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettCongress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Trump order on drug prices faces long road to finish line MORE (D-Texas) called the response “more obstruction!”

And Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans MORE (D-Ore.) said that “the Trump administration’s lawlessness continues unabated.”

“Secretary Mnuchin and the White House have blatantly interfered with the IRS’s obligation to provide the president’s tax returns, and action is needed to force this administration to follow the law,” he added.

Mnuchin said in his Tuesday letter to Neal that the chairman’s request “presents the question whether there are any legal limits on the ability of a Congressional tax-writing committee to obtain an individual’s private tax returns from the IRS and disclose them publicly.”

The Treasury secretary took issue with Neal’s stated purpose for requesting Trump’s tax returns.

Neal said in his initial letter requesting the tax returns that he wanted them because the Ways and Means Committee is considering legislation and conducting oversight about how the IRS audits and enforces tax laws against presidents.

But Mnuchin said that Neal’s request for the documents was “the culmination of a long-running, well-documented effort to expose the President’s tax returns for the sake of exposure.”

“The public record demonstrates that the animating purpose of this effort was and remains exposure of a political opponent’s private tax information,” he added.

Mnuchin said that Neal’s stated purpose about interest in the extent to which the IRS audits presidents is “difficult to accept on its face” and that the terms of Neal’s request don’t fit his stated purpose since he requested tax information from only the current president, whose audits are ongoing.

Mnuchin said Treasury would be happy to provide Neal with more information about the IRS’s process for conducting mandatory audits of presidents and encouraged Neal to “defer” his request for Trump’s tax returns until after the Ways and Means Committee works with Treasury “to meet its stated legislative needs.”

The Treasury secretary also said it would be a “misinterpretation” for Neal to treat his response as a denial of the request since Treasury plans to make a final decision by May 6 and hasn’t yet granted or denied Neal’s request.

It is not a surprise that Treasury missed Democrats’ second deadline.

The president has made it clear that he does not want Congress to receive his tax documents. During the 2016 campaign, he became the first major-party nominee in decades to refuse to voluntarily release his returns, citing an audit. The IRS, however, has said audits don’t prevent people from releasing their own tax information.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley on Tuesday reiterated Trump’s desire to not release his returns while under audit.

"As I understand it, the president’s pretty clear. Once he’s out of audit, he’ll think about doing it, but he’s not inclined to do so at this time," Gidley said on Fox News.

The fight over Trump’s tax returns is one of several battles that Democrats and Trump are having over investigations into the president’s finances. On Monday, Trump and his businesses filed a lawsuit in an effort to block an accounting firm from complying with a congressional subpoena for financial records about the president.

Democrats are expected to take further steps in their efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns following the second missed deadline. Eventually, the matter is expected to result in a court case.

Updated at 6:21 p.m.