The House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit Tuesday to force the Trump administration to disclose the President’s tax returns.
The lawsuit – filed in D.C. federal court – seeks a court order that would force Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Internal Revenue Service chief Chuck Rettig to hand over six years of Trump’s personal and business returns.
Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) is the only Democrat in Congress empowered by law to request the returns. Neal asked for them in April and then issued a subpoena for them. The Trump administration has refused to comply.
The lawsuit describes the Trump administration’s refusal as “an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information,” and says that it is “the first time ever” that the government has refused to comply with such a request from Congress.
Neal narrowly tailored the rationale for the initial April request, asserting that the tax returns were needed to conduct oversight of whether the IRS is impartially auditing Trump’s tax returns. He reiterates that argument in the Tuesday lawsuit, saying that Congress must investigate the matter in part because “President Trump himself has repeatedly questioned the integrity of the process by which the IRS audits his tax returns.”
The court filing also cites a recent opinion issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel at Mnuchin’s request, which purported to explain why the Treasury Department could not comply with Neal’s demand. The OLC accused Neal of having an improper, “political” motive in issuing the request.
Neal says that OLC “abetted” Mnuchin and Rettig in issuing the opinion, and that it “gravely misunderstand the operative law.”
“It is not for the Executive or the Judiciary to examine the Committee’s motivations for its oversight inquiries,” the lawsuit reads.
In the lawsuit, Neal cites multiple statements from Trump lashing out at the IRS for “unfairly” auditing him, as well as press reports suggesting that the President has used “complex arrangements of his personal and business finances” to skate on his taxes.
“Even as he was championing what would become the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, President Trump referred to the tax code as ‘riddled with loopholes’ for ‘special interests, including myself,'” the filing reads.
Neal also uses Trump’s frequent criticism of the IRS’s audit process – both as a candidate and as a president – to suggest that Congress has an interest in investigating whether the IRS is, in fact, harassing the President.
“These complaints by President Trump underscore the appropriateness of the Committee’s review of IRS audits of Presidential returns, including those of President Trump,” the lawsuit reads, before later going on to state that the administration’s refusal to release the returns renders Congress “unable to evaluate the President’s claims about the IRS’s audit process.”
Neal has drawn criticism from outside activists for the lengthy amount of time it took to first issue the request, and then to file the lawsuit after his follow-up subpoena was refused.
For the committee’s part, Neal appears to have taken pains both to tailor the request itself in a narrow enough fashion to survive a court case, and to hold hearings that would establish congressional interest in the matter.
The lawsuit cites witnesses as expounding at a February hearing “about important information that could be gleaned from President Trump’s tax return information” and how that information “could assist the Committee” in overseeing the IRS.
Read the lawsuit below: