World / Politics

White House discussed Trump tax returns with Treasury before Congress asked for them: Steve Mnuchin

AFP-JIJI

White House lawyers consulted with Treasury officials about President Donald Trump’s tax returns before Democratic lawmakers formally requested access to them, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday.

Democrat lawmakers last week officially requested six years of Trump’s tax filings, as well as those of his business empire, which his family has continued to operate while Trump is in office.

The White House has vowed Democrats will “never” see them.

Mnuchin testified before Congress on Tuesday that officials were reviewing Democrats’ request for the tax returns, adding that it would be “premature” to discuss their ultimate decision.

But he revealed that, prior to receiving the request, Treasury Department officials had been in contact with the White House to discuss it — even though Mnuchin himself was not personally involved.

“Our legal department had conversations prior to receiving the letter with the White House general counsel,” Mnuchin said in testimony before a House of Representatives subcommittee on the Treasury’s 2020 budget request.

The conversations were “purely informational,” Mnuchin claimed, adding that he personally had not been briefed on their contents.

Trump broke with a long-established norm during the 2016 elections by refusing to release his income tax returns, as most presidents have done since the 1970s even though it is not required by law.

“I believe that these presidents released their returns on a voluntary basis,” Mnuchin testified. “They made individual decisions. The general public when they elected President Trump made the decision to elect him without his tax returns.”

Trump has pointed to supposed IRS audits in refusing to release his tax returns. Tax experts, however, say this does not prevent him from making them public.

Mnuchin later on Tuesday is due to appear before a House panel on financial services, which is also expected to grill him about the decision on whether to grant lawmakers’ request for the tax returns.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5