The Trump administration on Wednesday admitted to a federal court that it needed to correct a major problem in court papers that it filed as part of a bid to shoot down a House lawsuit for President Trump’s tax returns.
It turns out that in an earlier filing asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit, the Treasury Department omitted several communications between the administration and the House Ways and Means Committee that occurred after the committee requested the returns.
“Although Defendants do not believe the new information set forth in the Supplemental Declaration materially affects the arguments set forth in their motion to dismiss, Defendants regret that this information was not included in their motion-to-dismiss filing,” the Wednesday filing said.
The changes alter a declaration that buttressed Trump’s effort to shoot down the lawsuit. The filing was submitted late Wednesday evening, just two days before the House was due to file its response to the motion to dismiss.
The committee would have had the opportunity to call the administration out on the omission in that response.
A top Treasury Department official said in the Wednesday filing that he only became aware of the previously undisclosed communications — which occurred in June and July — on Sept. 13.
The committee has stated that it needs access to Trump’s tax returns to make sure that the IRS is impartially auditing the President — a process that it is required to undertake by law. The Trump administration has argued that the Ways and Means Committee has used that argument as a fig leaf for the committee’s real, political motive in demanding the returns.
“If the Committee is, as it claims, truly interested in understanding how the IRS administers the Presidential audit process, then it has only scratched the surface of information available to inform that inquiry,” Treasury’s Sept. 9 motion to dismiss said.
The communications now being disclosed were between a House Ways and Means staffer, Karen McAfee, and an IRS employee, Robert Chapman.
Before the House committee filed its lawsuit seeking the returns, but after it made its formal request and issued a subpoena for the returns, the committee took up the Treasury Department on an offer to receive a briefing on the presidential audit process.
The briefing occurred on June 10 and lasted nearly four hours, according to the court filings.
In the earlier Sept. 9 motion to dismiss, top Treasury Department congressional liaison Frederick Vaughan filed a sworn declaration saying that the committee had sent the department 291 questions after the briefing that it had prepared for the briefing. Since many of those questions had been answered in the briefing itself, Vaughan, according the court filings, asked the committee on June 21 pick which questions should be prioritized in the Department’s response.
He then claimed that “to date” no one from the committee had identified which of the 291 questions to prioritize for Department response after the briefing.
However, the Wednesday court filing revealed that there were additional conversations between the committee and Chapman, the IRA employee, about getting follow-up responses to the committee’s post-briefing questions.
The conversations occurred specifically between Chapman, who is described in the filing as a program analyst in the IRS’s legislative affairs office and McAffee, a staff director for a Ways and Means subcommittee.
The previously undisclosed communications between the two occurred before and after the June briefing.
The day after the briefing Chapman emailed McAffee about so-called “get backs” — the questions that the IRS was unable to answer in the briefing that it would try to respond to in writing.
Wednesday’s filing also includes Chapman’s own list of those questions — 46 in total — which sought among other things information about who put together the briefing, how presidential audits are implemented and what sort of legal analysis was performed.
More than a month later — on July 17 — Chapman emailed McAffee again to follow up on her question “in passing” on the status of the get backs.
“I have asked and can not ascertain anything definite about whether or when the committee staff will receive any answers to any of the questions. Please feel free to call if you wish to discuss further,” he wrote.
Read the new filing and the original motion to dismiss below: