Treasury IG agrees to probe handling of Trump tax returns request

The Treasury Department inspector general's (IG) office is investigating the department's handling and rejection of House Democrats' request for President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet MORE's tax returns.

The Treasury Office of Inspector General said Friday it is undertaking an inquiry requested by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHouse Democrats push back on Trump's efforts to take credit for the economy Key House committee chairman to meet with Mnuchin on infrastructure next week Coalition of conservative groups to air ads against bipartisan proposal to end 'surprise' medical bills MORE (D-Mass.).

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"Chairman Neal has asked Treasury OIG to inquire into the process by which the Department received, evaluated, and responded to the Committee’s request for federal tax information," Treasury acting Inspector General Rich Delmar said in a statement. "We are undertaking that inquiry."

In a letter Neal sent to the IG on Monday, the chairman said that he wants to be sure that Treasury and the IRS are "enforcing the law in a fair and impartial manner and no one is endeavoring to intimidate or impede government officials and employees carrying out their duties."

Neal asked the IG to conduct a "real-time inquiry" and asked for the watchdog's findings to include the names of those involved in the handling of his requests and related decisions.

Neal in April requested six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns from the IRS, citing a provision in the tax code that states that the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" tax returns requested by the chairs of Congress's tax committees. Neal has said the committee wants Trump's tax returns because it's interested in oversight and legislation about how the IRS enforces tax laws against a president.

The Treasury Department rejected Neal's request and subsequent subpoenas, arguing that they lacked a legitimate legislative purpose. The Ways and Means Committee then filed a lawsuit in July in an effort to get a judge to order Treasury Department and the IRS to comply with the requests and subpoenas.

The lawsuit is still pending. The administration, along with Trump's personal lawyers, have filed a motion to dismiss the case, and a hearing on that motion is scheduled for Nov. 6.

The Committee revealed in court documents in August that a federal employee had reached out with credible allegations of possible attempts to influence the IRS's program for mandatory audits of presidents and vice presidents. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the whistleblower is a career IRS employee who reported that he was told that at least one Treasury political appointee tried to interfere with the mandatory audit program.

—Updated at 4:55 p.m.