House Dems give IRS new deadline to provide Trump's tax returns

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealDems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Dems digging into Trump finances post-Mueller On 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 MORE (D-Mass.) on Saturday sent a second letter to the IRS in his push to obtain President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE's tax returns, after the agency missed his original deadline to provide the documents.

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

"Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request," Neal wrote in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

ADVERTISEMENT

Neal had sent a letter earlier this month to Rettig requesting that the IRS provide six years' worth of Trump's personal and business tax returns by April 10.

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.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinDems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle On 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' MORE responded to the letter, saying that the department was unable to finish its review of the request by April 10. He said Treasury would be consulting with the Justice Department on the matter and that he would be supervising Treasury's handling of the request.

Mnuchin told reporters on Saturday, at the end of International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, that the new April 23 deadline was "arbitrary." He said he expected Treasury to respond to Neal's letter by that date but didn't commit that the department would finish its review of the chairman's request by then.

“The implications of this is way beyond, in my mind, a congressional oversight issue and a precedent issue," he said, according to a transcript provided by the Treasury Department. "The issue is, I feel a responsibility that we get this right and the IRS does not become weaponized like it was under the Nixon administration.”

An IRS spokesperson said the agency had no immediate comment on the latest letter.

Trump and his allies have made it clear that they disapprove of the request, arguing that it lacks a legitimate legislative purpose. They've argued that Neal's stated reason for wanting the returns is just pretext and that he really wants to score political points against Trump.

In his new letter, Neal rejected concerns raised by Republicans and said that "judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the Committee’s request."  

Neal said that the section of the tax code that he made the request under is "unambiguous and raises no complicated legal issues that warrant supervision or review" by Treasury or the Justice Department. The tax code provision states that the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" tax returns upon request of the chairmen of Congress's tax committees, so long as a committee reviews them in closed session.

The Ways and Means Committee chairman also said that "there is no valid basis to question the legitimacy of the Committee’s legislative purpose here." He added that the Supreme Court has found that Congress has broad investigative power.  

"It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury, or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the Committee or its reasonable determinations regarding its need for the requested tax returns and return information," Neal said.

Additionally, Neal argued that concerns about what the Ways and Means Committee may do with Trump's tax returns if they obtain them are "baseless."

"The IRS, Treasury, and Justice must assume that the Committee Members, like all government officials, will act properly in the conduct of their official duties," he wrote.

Updated: 4:21 p.m.