Mnuchin tells Congress it's 'premature' to talk about Trump tax returns decision

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: House Dem says marijuana banking bill will get vote in spring | Buttigieg joins striking Stop & Shop workers | US home construction slips in March | Uber gets B investment for self-driving cars Former Sears holding company sues ex-CEO, Mnuchin and others over 'asset stripping' On The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost MORE said Tuesday that it would be "premature" for him to comment on Democrats' request for President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE's tax returns, and that he hasn't personally spoken to anyone in the White House about the issue.
 
"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," he said at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
 
 
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Mnuchin is viewed as a key figure to watch in the administration's response to the request, since the IRS is part of the Treasury Department. Democrats argue that the law doesn't give the IRS any wiggle room to deny their request, but Mnuchin could try to signal loyalty toward Trump by fighting it. 
 
In recent days, Trump allies have been arguing that Democrats shouldn't receive the returns because their request doesn't have a legitimate legislative purpose, while Democrats argue they do have such a purpose and that the law is clear that they should receive them.
 
The hearing was the first time Mnuchin commented on Neal's request since it was made.
 
Subcommittee Chairman Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce Quigley20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Mnuchin tells Congress it's 'premature' to talk about Trump tax returns decision HUD chief Carson leaves Dem lawmaker exasperated with answer on LGBT protections MORE (D-Ill.) pressed Mnuchin on whether the Treasury secretary should be involved in making the decision on how to respond to the request. While the statute says that the secretary "shall furnish" requested returns, Treasury has delegated responsibility of administration of the tax code.
 
"It raises the question of whether a decision to decide this by yourself is appropriate and legal," Quigley said.
 
Mnuchin said it would be "premature" to comment on exactly what is being reviewed. He said there is a "tradition" of delegating some responsibilities to the IRS commissioner, but "it is my responsibility to supervise the commissioner."
 
Republican lawmakers at the hearing blasted the tax-returns request.
 
 
While Mnuchin didn't directly comment on how the administration would respond to the request, he noted that Trump was elected in 2016 without releasing his tax returns — a remark that other administration officials have made when saying that Democrats shouldn't get the documents.
 
Mnuchin added that he is sure "there are many prominent Democrats who are relieved that when [Rep.] Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyTreasury to miss Dem deadline for Trump tax returns Treasury expected to miss Dem deadline on Trump tax returns Mnuchin tells Congress it's 'premature' to talk about Trump tax returns decision MORE [(R-Texas)] was chairman of the [Ways and Means] Committee that he didn't request specific returns."
 
Quigley noted that presidents in the past have released their returns in the past to be transparent.
 
Mnuchin said those voluntary disclosures were "individual decisions" and that there is a requirement for presidents to release financial disclosures, which Trump has done.
 
Quigley asked Mnuchin whether he has spoken to Trump or 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 about the tax-returns request. Both have publicly indicated that they think Democrats shouldn't get the returns.
 
Mnuchin said he hasn't personally talked about the topic with Trump, Mulvaney or anyone else in the White House.
 
He said Treasury's legal department spoke to the White House general counsel about the issue prior to Neal sending his request. He said he wasn't briefed on the full extent of the communications, calling it "purely informational."
 
When asked after the hearing if Treasury will send Neal a reply by his deadline, Mnuchin told reporters that "in general we try to accommodate these requests."
 
"I'm not going to make a specific comment on that, but could be a good guess," he said.
 
—Updated at 11:38 a.m.