WASHINGTON – House Democrats asked a U.S. court to force the Treasury Department to turn over six years of President Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns.
The long-expected lawsuit filed Tuesday is the latest attempt by Congress to assert oversight over the executive branch, as the Trump administration has either rejected or ignored various subpoenas since Democrats took the majority in the House in January.
“In refusing to comply with the statute, defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people who participate in the nation’s voluntary tax system,” the complaint said.
The lawsuit followed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s rejections of a written request and then a subpoena for the information. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal has sought the records since April, arguing that his committee needs them to see whether the Internal Revenue Service is following its practice of auditing the president annually.
Trump’s lawyers have twice tried and failed to win court orders blocking subpoenas seeking records from Trump’s bankers and accountants. His attorneys are appealing those rulings. A federal judge in May said U.S. lawmakers have the power to demand Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP.
The Democrats’ lawsuit attempts to enforce requests for tax returns and other records for both Trump and his businesses. Democrats have long hoped to see the returns to help explore his foreign business ties, see how he might have profited from recent tax legislation and see whether he’s under audit by the IRS, among other issues.
Neal in his requests invoked a section of the tax code that gives him and Congress’s other tax-writing committees the right to receive such records for any taxpayer.
Mnuchin put off the request for a month and in May rejected it, asserting that Neal’s stated legislative purpose was just a pretext for a political attack. He said that the rejection was based on advice from the Department of Justice, which gave him a formal written opinion on the issue.
That upped the pressure for Neal to sue. Some legal experts believe the battle could last well past the 2020 presidential election and reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case is Committee on Ways and Means v. U.S. Department of the Treasury, 19-cv-1974, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.