Mulvaney says Congress will never see Trump's tax returns

By Grace Segers

/ CBS News

Mulvaney says U.S. "not going to war in Iran" amid rising tensions

Congress should not expect to see President Trump's tax returns, says White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Nor should lawmakers think they're entitled to see any more of the special counsel's report, he told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett. In a wide-ranging interview for "The Takeout" podcast this week, Mulvaney also weighed in on Venezuela, North Korea, and took a jab at a recent entrant to the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

Listen to this episode on Stitcher

Here are some of the highlights:

Trump's tax returns

Mulvaney said that Congress will never get to see President Trump's tax returns, despite efforts by House Democrats to subpoena the information.

"They're not entitled to see them by law," Mulvaney told Garrett.

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wrote in a letter Monday that the Treasury Department would not release Mr. Trump's tax returns to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Neal, citing a statute that gives the chairman of House Ways and Means the authority to obtain any individual's tax return, had demanded six years of Mr. Trump's taxes.

Mulvaney called efforts to obtain the tax returns "a pure show pony-type of situation," and said that House Democrats were just trying to "embarrass" the president.

"What's embarrassing about his tax records?" Garrett pressed Mulvaney.

"That's what they want to know," Mulvaney said, adding that he didn't know if there was any embarrassing information in Mr. Trump's returns because he had not seen them.

"I don't care, and more importantly, voters don't care. Keep in mind, everybody knew, everybody who cared knew that the president didn't produce his tax records before the election, and they voted for him anyway," Mulvaney continued. "So from a political perspective, this debate is over. The Democrats are trying to continue that political conversation and there's no reason to do it."

Trump Jr. subpoena

Mulvaney also addressed other pressing issues, like the Senate Intelligence Committee's subpoena of Donald Trump Jr. The committee is chaired by Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

For the Senate Intelligence Committee to subpoena Mr. Trump's son and "not at least get a heads-up, I thought was — let's say bad form," Mulvaney said. He said he did not know whether the president was also caught by surprise.

Mueller report

Mulvaney said that Congress is also "not entitled to see" the full report by special counsel Robert Mueller, countering Democrats' argument that they have the right to see the unredacted report in order to conduct their constitutional duty of congressional oversight.

"The Mueller report was lightly redacted in the first place and redacted for reasons that everybody agrees are the right reasons to redact it," Mulvaney told CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett on this week's episode of "The Takeout" podcast.

The Justice Department has offered to allow a few members of Congress to view a less redacted version of the report, under the condition that these members do not speak with their colleagues about the report. Democrats consider this offer unfair.

"I'm not sure how they find it insufficient. It's everything that there is," Mulvaney said in response to Democrats' complaints. "They are not the Department of Justice. They do have a — they do have a right — by the way, it's not in the Constitution. It's been implied in the Constitution by the Supreme Court to have some oversight."

But that oversight should not be understood, Mulvaney argued, as Congress' role to "second-guess the Department of Justice" or "supplement their decision for the decision of the attorney general." He added, "They are not the executive branch of government. They are there to make law, and their oversight is supposed to be related to their process of making law, and that's not what happened – that's not what's happening right now."

Venezuela

Mulvaney discussed foreign policy as well, including American opposition to the leadership of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The U.S. has recognized Juan Guaidó, president of the National Assembly, as interim president of Venezuela, though Maduro's government remains in place.

Mulvaney said that the U.S. will not intervene to ensure that Guaidó becomes president.

"I don't think we're going to take affirmative action to make him become the leader. We're going to continue to back him. Is it moving slower than some people thought that it might? Perhaps, but that doesn't mean that thing are over by any means down there," Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney says Venezuelan opposition has full backing of U.S.

Iran

Mulvaney also said that despite escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, the two countries are not on the brink of war. The U.S. imposed more sanctions on Iran this week. The Department of Defense also announced Monday that an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers would be sent to the Persian Gulf in response to "recent and clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region."

"We have specific interests in the region. We have troops, for example, in Iraq. We have good allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Bahrain. We have military assets there to protect. We have interests in the region," Mulvaney said about the strike group headed to the Persian Gulf.

"We are not going to war with Iran," Mulvaney said.

Trade

Mulvaney said that the U.S. will likely impose increased tariffs on China, as the two parties are at an impasse in trade negotiations.

"The president said that there would be, and we're not making enough progress. We're making some, but not enough," Mulvaney said about imposing the tariffs amid stalled negotiations.

2020 Campaign

The White House chief of staff also took aim at a frequent target of Mr. Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the Democrats running for president. Mulvaney said that the presidency is a harder job than Biden knows.

"He ran for vice president. I mean Mike Pence'll tell you there's a difference between running for vice president and running for president. You sort of come in at the end. And you give the big speeches after the guys are already nominated right? But when you're out there on the trail every single day knocking on doors – I've done it. And it is really really hard work," Mulvaney said.

For more of Major's wide-ranging conversation with Mick Mulvaney, including his assertions that the White House exerted executive privilege on Mueller documents because Congress is "not entitled" to the information, and that the U.S. "will not go war with Iran," download "The Takeout" podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or Spotify. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

Producers: Arden Farhi, Katiana Krawchenko, Jamie Benson and Sara Cook
CBSN Production: Alex Zuckerman, Eric Soussanin and Grace Segers
Show email: [email protected]
Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast
Instagram: @TakeoutPodcast
Facebook: Facebook.com/TakeoutPodcast

First published on May 10, 2019 / 6:10 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Grace Segers

Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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