Democratic senator questions IRS commissioner over tax returns memo

Democratic senator questions IRS commissioner over tax returns memo
© Greg Nash

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field House GOP unveils alternative drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote Pelosi gets standing ovation at Kennedy Center Honors MORE (D-Ore.) sent a letter to the IRS commissioner Wednesday about a confidential memo that reportedly contradicts the Trump administration's reasons for not complying with a congressional subpoena for President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE's tax returns. 

Wyden wrote a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig asking him a series of questions including about when he first became aware of the memo that was reported last month by The Washington Post and who else in the IRS knew about it. 

The Oregon Democrat said in his letter to Rettig that the commissioner, in testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee, "intimated that you had not discussed with IRS legal staff whether you as IRS Commissioner have discretion over whether to comply with a request for tax information."

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Wyden added that the reported existence of the memo, which was prepared in 2018, according to the Post, "may have significant implications on your House Appropriations subcommittee testimony" and his prior response to a letter by Wyden. 

Wyden said in a statement that “Congress needs to investigate to know whether Trump appointees have engaged in a cover up to conceal political interference inside the IRS." 

"Career IRS officials prepared a legal analysis stating that the agency was required to provide the returns, and it was buried. We need to know who saw this memo and when," he added. 

The draft memo written by an IRS lawyer last fall determined that the agency has to provide tax returns that are requested by Congress unless the president invokes executive privilege. 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinLawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — House Dems charge Trump with abuse, obstruction of Congress in impeachment articles White House, Democrats edge closer to deal on trade MORE last month rejected a subpoena for the president's tax returns. He has said the request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.

President Trump has not invoked executive privilege over his tax returns, according to officials. 

The Hill has reached out to the IRS for comment.