Mnuchin on solid ground in withholding Trump tax returns: Justice Department

Clay Curtis
June 15, 2019

The US Justice Department its legal has released an its opinion supporting the Treasury secretary's refusal to hand over President Donald Trump's tax returns.

"The Chairman's request that Treasury turn over the President's tax returns, for the apparent objective of making them public, amounted to an unprecedented use of the Committee's authority and raised a serious risk of abuse", the opinion said.

Legal analysts have said Mnuchin's move would be highly unusual, and some House Democrats have said they expected to take legal action to get a court to intervene.

The 33-page legal opinion was sent upon request to Mnuchin, who asked for it to be composed after his subordinate, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, received a request for six years of the President's taxes.

Federal law "protecting confidentiality of tax returns prohibited the Department of the Treasury from complying with a request by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for the president's tax returns", a department official said in the opinion provided to the Treasury Department.

"We concluded that the secretary reasonably and correctly found that the committee lacked a legitimate objective for seeking six years of the president's tax information", he wrote.

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The topic has been a contentious one for the president since his time on the campaign trail in 2015, and throughout his administration, as he has refused to release his financial information.

Mr. Neal, in requesting six years of returns from Mr. Trump and some of his core business and charitable entities, said he wanted to review whether the IRS was living up to its internal guidance that requires the president be audited each year.

Trump's personal attorneys pushed back against the request, arguing Neal sought the tax returns for political reasons. The documents revealed that Trump claimed to have lost $1.17 billion from his real estate businesses during that decade. The newspaper also reported that the losses were so substantial, that in the eight of the 10 years in question, Trump was able to avoid paying income tax.

Mr Neal is invoking a little-known provision of the tax code which states the Treasury Secretary "shall furnish" the committee with the return information.

Mr. Mnuchin has said Mr. Neal could learn that without having to see the president's tax returns.

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