Asking for more time to study the legal implications of a request by Democrats in Congress for six years of President Donald Trump's personal and business tax returns, the Treasury Department on Wednesday said the documents would not be handed over by today's deadline set by the Chairman of a House panel.
"The Committee requests the materials by April 10, but the Treasury Department will not be able to complete its review of your request by that date," wrote Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter to Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA).
"The Department respects Congressional oversight, and we intend to review your request carefully," Mnuchin added, a day after he told lawmakers that he intended to 'follow the law' on the request for Mr. Trump's tax returns.
In his letter, Mnuchin did not reject the request for the President's tax information under Section 6103(f) of the Internal Revenue Code, but said the 'unprecedented' request needed more legal evaluation by the Trump Administration.
Secretary Mnuchin’s response to Chairman Neal’s letter requesting President Trump’s tax returns: pic.twitter.com/X2VsDYKpYh— Tony Sayegh (@TreasurySpox) April 10, 2019
“The Treasury Department is right to carefully review the privacy impact this request would have on every taxpayer,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who labeled the request for the President's tax returns 'unprecedented.'
The Trump Administration letter made no mention of President Trump's usual argument against turning over his tax returns - that he is under audit - as it instead focused on an extended legal review of the matter.
“I will say this - I would love to give them, but I’m not going to do it while I’m under audit,” Mr. Trump told reporters on the White House lawn Wednesday before leaving for a trip to Texas.
But for a second straight day on Capitol Hill, the head of the Internal Revenue Service told lawmakers there was no provision in law regarding audits which would stand in the way of such a request for the President's tax returns.
Rep. Bishop: "If anybody's tax return is under audit, is there a rule that would prohibit that taxpayer from releasing it?"— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 10, 2019
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig: "I think I've answered that question. No." pic.twitter.com/SRmApD7xFq
It wasn't immediately clear how long any legal review would take by the Trump Administration, as the Acting White House Chief of Staff had made clear earlier in the week that President Trump was not going to turn over his tax returns.
“This letter is nonsense,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).
“The law is clear that our Chairman’s request must be granted,” Beyer added, as he said “Secretary Mnuchin is putting the President’s personal desires ahead of the law and the public interest.”
Democrats pointed out the law says the Secretary “shall” provide tax returns when requested by three different committees in the House - one of which is the House Ways and Means panel, which asked for six years of the President's tax returns.
“Let me be clear: if Secretary Mnuchin does not provide the president’s tax returns, he will break the law,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).