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

 
"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.
 
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTrump argues NY tax return case should take place in DC NY files motion to keep Trump tax returns lawsuit out of DC court Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax MORE (D-Mass.) last week sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig requesting six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns. He asked for the documents by April 10, which is one day away.
 
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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 QuigleyLawmakers point to entitlements when asked about deficits Mueller Day falls flat Mueller on Trump's WikiLeaks embrace: 'Problematic is an understatement' 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 BradyRepublicans' rendezvous with reality — their plan is to cut Social Security The Social Security 2100 Act is critical for millennials and small business owners House panel releases documents of presidential tax return request before Trump 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 MulvaneyDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Chris Wallace becomes Trump era's 'equal opportunity inquisitor' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid 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.