House Democrats are showing that they will not put up with the Trump administration continuing to drag its heels in providing President Trump’s tax returns. Following the IRS’s failure to provide the six years of Trump’s returns the House had requested by April 10, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) has now sent a second letter to the IRS, giving a new deadline, and, importantly, indicating that if the IRS misses the new deadline, that will be considered a denial of the request. Presumably, that warning means that if the IRS misses the new deadline, which is April 23 at 5PM, the House will resort either to getting a subpoena for the documents or filing a lawsuit to force the administration to comply.
Neal also stated in his letter that the administration’s stated misgivings about his original request “lack merit”, according to The Hill, that “judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the Committee’s request”, and in response to the Treasury Department’s claim that it needs to confer with the Department of Justice about the request, stated that the request is “unambiguous and raises no complicated legal issues that warrant supervision or review” by either the Treasury Department or the Department of Justice. According to The Hill:
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) on Saturday sent a second letter to the IRS in his push to obtain President Trump’s tax returns, after the agency missed his original deadline to provide the documents. In the new letter, Neal said that concerns about his request “lack merit” and that he expects a response from the IRS by 5 p.m. on April 23. “Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,” Neal wrote in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. … The Ways and Means Committee chairman (Neal) also said that “there is no valid basis to question the legitimacy of the Committee’s legislative purpose here.” He added that the Supreme Court has found that Congress has broad investigative power. “It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury, or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the Committee or its reasonable determinations regarding its need for the requested tax returns and return information,” Neal said.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gave comments to reporters today regarding Neal’s second letter. Mnuchin, who had just emerged from International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, called the April 23 deadline “arbitrary”, according to The Hill, and wouldn’t say whether or not the Trump administration would meet that deadline. Of course the deadline is arbitrary – its point is to establish that the Trump administration cannot simply continue to delay the process by saying that they still need to confer with the DOJ, the Treasury, or any other organization. By stipulating in the letter that failure to meet the April 23 deadline will be interpreted as a denial of the request, it sets the stage for the House to take legal action to force the administration to comply if this deadline is missed.
President Trump has claimed, falsely, that his tax returns being under audit means that he can’t supply them. Not only has the IRS indicated that this claim is not true, but it is also the case that the tax returns of all presidents are routinely audited, yet other presidents have made their returns publicly available for the last four decades. The six tax years of returns requested are 2013-2018. Trump’s excuse of being under audit has no merit, according to the IRS, for any of those years. Trump also has never provided proof that his taxes for the years prior to his presidency are actually under audit, nor has he explained why such an audit would not have been completed for those years in the three years since he began using that excuse.
Multiple states have moved to pass legislation to demand that future presidential candidates make public multiple years of their tax returns as a condition for being on the ballot. President Trump has refused to follow the four decade precedent of presidents and presidential nominees voluntarily making their tax returns public, so indeed it may take legislation, and the accompanying threat of his not being on the ballot in multiple states for 2020 if he does not provide this information, in order to get Trump to comply.