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Mnuchin Foresees Trump Tax Return Fight Heading to Court

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 5/15/2019 Laura Davison and Saleha Mohsin

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin leaves a Senate subcommittee hearing after testifying on the Treasury Department's budget on May 15, 2019. © Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin leaves a Senate subcommittee hearing after testifying on the Treasury Department's budget on May 15, 2019. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated he would not comply with a subpoena to hand over President Donald Trump’s tax returns, saying that the judicial branch will likely decide the dispute between Congress and the Trump administration.

“There’s a difference in interpretation in Congress and us and the Department of Justice,” Mnuchin told a Senate appropriations panel Wednesday. “That’s why there are three branches of government, so that if there’s a difference in opinion it can go to” a different branch to be resolved.

Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig face a Friday deadline to hand over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax documents. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal subpoenaed the documents last week after making several requests in April using a section of the tax code that gives the chairmen of the congressional tax committees the authority to request any tax return, including those of the president.

So far, Mnuchin has repeatedly refused those requests, saying House Democrats don’t have a legitimate legislative purpose for the returns and only want to target a political enemy and violate the president’s privacy. Neal has said his purpose in asking is to oversee the IRS’s routine annual audit of every president and vice president.

Mnuchin told the senators that Congress didn’t need to see the president’s returns to ensure the IRS was conducting audits properly.

“Congress has a legitimate interest to make sure the IRS is performing the function properly as it relates to any taxpayer,” Mnuchin said. “This is a very important issue that has a precedent way beyond any one president.”

Mnuchin also said in answer to a question that he has not discussed the dispute over the returns "with the president or with anybody in the White House."

Trump broke with 40 years of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns during the 2016 campaign.

Neal has said he has drafted his request for the tax return with the anticipation that this dispute would be decided in the courts. Another dispute over Trump’s tax returns, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee seeking Trump’s personal and business records from accountant Mazars USA LLP, had a hearing in federal court on Tuesday.

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