Battle begins over Trump tax returns

The battle over President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE’s tax returns heated up Sunday as Trump's allies took to the Sunday show circuit to dismiss Democratic efforts to obtain the president’s taxes.

While Democrats are going all-in on their method of requesting Trump's returns through the Internal Revenue Service after he refused to release them voluntarily, even some Republicans who want to see the president's taxes are mocking Democrats' latest attempt to get them.

And acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump frustrated with aides who talked to Mueller The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday MORE and Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow predicted Sunday that Democrats would be unsuccessful.

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Appearing on “Fox News Sunday" days after the House Ways and Means Committee formally requested Trump’s taxes, Mulvaney said Democrats will “never” see Trump’s taxes.

"Nor should they. That’s an issue that was already litigated during the election. Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns, they knew that he didn’t, and they elected him anyway," Mulvaney said.

He also accused Democrats of knowing they can't get Trump's taxes and called their pursuits a "political hit job."

Last week, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the IRS asking for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. He cited Section 6103 of the federal tax code, which permits Congress's tax committees to privately view tax information of any filer.

Trump's personal legal team has already urged the IRS not to release his taxes, arguing that the Justice Department needs to weigh in on the legality of the request.

Sekulow doubled down on that approach Sunday, saying during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” that Democrats do not have a “legitimate legislative purpose” for requesting Trump’s taxes.

He also accused Democrats of using the IRS as a “political weapon.”

“But this idea that you can use the IRS as a political weapon, which is what is happening here, is incorrect both as a matter of statutory law and constitutionally. We should not be in a situation where individual private tax returns are used for political purposes,” he said.

Democrats are not alone in wanting to see Trump's taxes. Multiple Republicans, including Sens. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Pelosi downplays impeachment post-Mueller report MORE (R-Utah), have said in recent days that they would prefer to see the president's tax returns. But they've also criticized Democrats' specific approach in attempting to obtain them.

Kennedy said last week that he "would like to see" Trump's taxes but later responded to Neal's formal request for Trump's returns by saying that it "must really suck to be that dumb" and accusing Neal of wanting "to screw with the president."

Romney similarly said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he wishes Trump would release his taxes but called the Democratic approach "moronic" and predicted that Trump will "win this victory."

"[Trump] said he would be happy to release his returns. So I wish he’d do that. But I have to also tell you I think the Democrats are just playing along his handbook, which is, going after his tax returns through legislative action is moronic," he said.

"That’s not going to happen," Romney added. "The courts are not going to say that you can compel a person running for office to release their tax returns. He’s going to win this victory.”

Democrats defend themselves by saying they have an oversight responsibility and that Trump forced the Democrats' hand by breaking with tradition and not willingly sharing his taxes. 

Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said on "Fox News Sunday" that no other president in modern history "has had to have their tax returns requested under 6103 because they’ve all voluntarily shared them."

"Just as President Trump promised as a candidate that he would share his tax returns. After he was elected he promised he would share his tax returns with the American people. And he’s refused to do so," Luján added.

Trump has said in the past that he is willing to release his taxes but won't do so because he is under audit. The IRS says it does not prevent individuals from releasing their personal returns even when they're under audit.

Kildee, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that there is a "real question" of whether "the president's personal financial interests impact his public decision making."

"The unusual situation is not Congress using its authority to gain access legitimately under a very clear statute, the thing that's unusual is that Donald Trump has broken 50 years — nearly 50 years of tradition by not being transparent with the American people," Kildee said. 

 -Updated 1:10 p.m.