Treasury Department delays response to Democrats on Trump's tax returns

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

/ CBS News

Washington — The Treasury Department on Tuesday defied for a second time a deadline set by House Democrats to turn over six years of President Trump's tax returns, intensifying one of several legal clashes between the administration and Democratic-controlled committees in the House.

In a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is overseen by his department, would not be disclosing Mr. Trump's tax information on Tuesday — the second deadline set by the congressional panel. Echoing the arguments he made in a letter he sent the committee on April 10, the initial deadline, Mnuchin said Tuesday he was concerned the efforts by Democrats to release the president's tax returns were politically motivated.

"History demonstrates that private tax private information is susceptible to abuse for partisan purpose — regardless of which party is in power," the secretary wrote in the letter. "Unless carefully restrained by law, this risk threatens the privacy of all taxpayers."

Mnuchin again raised doubts about the committee's investigative authority and the "legislative purpose" behind the request by its Democratic majority. He said there is ample evidence proving that the chief objective of Neal and other Democrats on the panel is to "expose the tax returns of a political opponent."

As he stated in a previous letter to the committee, Mnuchin said the Treasury Department is consulting with the Justice Department — a move requested by one of the president's personal lawyers — to determine whether the request for Mr. Trump's tax returns is legal and constitutional. He pledged to inform the committee of his agency's decision by May 6, when he said his agency would have the Justice Department's "legal conclusions."

In response to Mnuchin's letter, Neal said he would consult with his legal counsel about his "next steps." The Massachusetts Democrat had previously warned he would deem the Treasury Department's failure to comply with his second deadline a "denial" of his committee's request.

Earlier this month, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney vowed Democrats would "never" see Mr. Trump's tax returns.

First published on April 23, 2019 / 6:36 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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