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Treasury Again Misses Deadline for Trump’s Tax Returns

Newsweek logo Newsweek 4/23/2019 Ramsey Touchberry

Kevin Brady in a suit and tie: President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with the House Ways and Means Committee, as its chairman Representative Kevin Brady (right) and ranking member Representative Richard Neal (left) listen, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, on September 26, 2017. The U.S. Treasury Department again missed a deadline to provide Trump’s personal and business tax returns.
© Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with the House Ways and Means Committee, as its chairman Representative Kevin Brady (right) and ranking member Representative Richard Neal (left) listen, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, on September 26, 2017. The U.S. Treasury Department again missed a deadline to provide Trump’s personal and business tax returns.

The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday again missed a deadline set by congressional Democrats to comply with their demand for President Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns. Secretary Steven Mnuchin said they need until May 6 to review the request and to continue consulting with the Justice Department about whether they will ultimately comply.

"The Department cannot act upon your request unless and until it is determined to be consistent with law," Mnuchin said in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. "Due to the serious constitutional questions raised by this request and the serious consequences that a resolution of those questions could have for taxpayer privacy, the Department is consulting with the Department of Justice."

Neal gave the Internal Revenue Service until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to comply with their demand for six years’ worth of the president’s tax returns, making it the second such deadline the department has missed. Earlier this month, due to ongoing consultation with DOJ about whether they had to comply, Treasury missed the first deadline set by Neal.

It's not yet known what action the Committee will take, but the delay or ultimate refusal could lead to a lengthy legal battle.

"I plan to consult with counsel about my next steps," Neal said in a statement. 

Ways and Means member Dan Kildee, a Democrat, told Newsweek prior to the 5 p.m. deadline that any refusal to provide Trump’s taxes would eventually “end up before a judge, no matter what” the Committee's next step may be. But the specifics on how exactly they get there, whether it be by issuing subpoenas or filing a lawsuit, is still yet to be determined.

“All avenues are on the table," Kildee said. "I wouldn’t want to rule in or out any particular path… [Neal] has done a good job of keeping us apprised of his thinking but hasn’t signaled his next steps."

Neal's office did not respond to Newsweek's inquiries throughout the day Tuesday about what action will next be taken by the chairman. 

The IRS provision by which Democrats made the demand for Trump’s taxes states that Treasury “shall” turn over “any return or return information” requested by certain committees, which includes Ways and Means.

However, Mnuchin has questioned whether Congress is outside their “constitutional scope” and “the legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose and the constitutional rights of American citizens,” as he said after the department missed the first deadline to hand over Trump's taxes. The top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, previously called the Democrats’ demand a “political fishing expedition.” William Consovoy, a personal lawyer for Trump, has sent letters to Treasury, telling them that such information is not under Congress’ constitutional authority and to therefore deny the request.

“We have a clear legislative intent,” Kildee told Newsweek, justifying his committee’s demand for the president's tax returns as part of Congress’ oversight of the executive branch, despite some of the returns being from when the president was a private citizen. “It’s not up to the administration to decide when our legislative interests are valid. We can determine that for ourselves, and we think they should follow the law.”

Trump has said he "won't do it" while he's under audit by the IRS, the same reason he used throughout the campaign trail to not release his taxes. Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley reiterated the president's stance on Fox News just hours before the deadline.

“As I understand it, the president has been pretty clear: once he’s out of office, he’ll think about doing it. But he’s not inclined to do so at this time," Gidley said. "It’s already been litigated in the court of public opinion and in the election. No one cares about ridiculous charges about tax returns."

The refusal to provide Trump’s tax returns to Congress is the administration’s latest efforts to stonewall Democrats' various probes into the president’s personal, political and business life.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings threatened to hold former White House Personnel Security Director Carl Kline, who now works at the Defense Department, in contempt for ignoring a subpoena to testify Tuesday morning at the direction of the administration. The president’s personal lawyers also filed a lawsuit against the committee Monday on behalf of him and his businesses to prevent his longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, from providing years of financial information that was subpoenaed by Cummings.

“This president is really nervous about people knowing what he’s up to,” Kildee said. “And he’ll do everything he can to keep people from knowing what he’s up to.”

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