Trump lawyer criticizes House Democrat's tax return demands
(Recasts with Trump lawyer letter; adds quotes, report on
By David Morgan and Karen Freifeld
WASHINGTON, April 15 (Reuters) - A lawyer for President
Donald Trump warned the U.S. Treasury on Monday that Democratic
lawmakers are pursuing "unchecked congressional power" by
requesting Trump's tax returns from the Internal Revenue
In a letter to Treasury General Counsel Brent McIntosh,
Trump lawyer William Consovoy accused the chairman of the House
of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, Richard Neal, of
inventing a legislative justification for the request while
pursuing political aims. Treasury officials had no immediate
Consovoy's letter, which appeared to increase the odds of a
lengthy court battle, came two days after Neal, a Democrat, set
a final April 23 deadline for the IRS to turn over six years of
Trump's individual and business tax returns.
Trump broke with a decades-old precedent by refusing to
release his returns as a presidential candidate in 2016 and
continues to do so as president, saying his tax returns are
under IRS audit. The IRS, which is overseen by the Treasury
Department, has said that Trump could release his returns even
while under audit.
Neal formally requested Trump's returns on April 3, saying
his committee was exercising its jurisdiction over IRS audits
and enforcement of the tax law regarding the president. Neal set
an initial April 10 deadline that the Trump administration
Democrats want the Republican president's tax returns as
part of their investigations of possible conflicts of interest
posed by Trump's continued ownership of extensive business
interests, even as he serves the public as president.
"Congress has no constitutional authority to act like a
junior-varsity IRS, rerunning individual examinations or
flyspecking the agency's calculations," Consovoy said in his
letter. "Congress especially has no constitutional authority to
interfere with an ongoing examination."
As Ways and Means chairman, Neal is the only lawmaker in the
House authorized to request individual tax information under a
federal law that says the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" the
"We are incredibly confident about the legal ground that we
are standing on. If the IRS does not comply with the request,
Chairman Neal will likely issue a subpoena for the returns,"
said Representative Judy Chu, a Democratic member of the Ways
and Means Committee.
Consovoy accused Neal of pursuing a "radical view of
unchecked congressional power (that) has no support in law." He
dismissed the notion that the request is legislatively
justified, saying, "No one actually believes this."
Despite the law's clarity, Democrats have long acknowledged
that the request, if denied, would mean a federal court battle
that could ultimately be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Consovoy's letter surfaced after Treasury Secretary Steven
Mnuchin said on Monday that he will act in accordance with the
law regarding the request for Trump's tax returns.
"We're analyzing the law, we're consulting with the
Department of Justice," Mnuchin said in an interview on Fox
Business Network while reiterating concerns about lawmakers'
"I will follow the law," Mnuchin told the cable network,
adding that he would review related "constitutional issues"
carefully. Mnuchin is involved in the decision because his
department has oversight of the IRS.
Trump's 2016 Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton,
responded to the events on Twitter. "The secretary of the
treasury and head of the IRS continue to refuse to turn over
Trump's tax returns to Congress for reasons even they can't
clearly articulate," she wrote.
Echoing Republicans in Congress, Mnuchin said he was
concerned Democrats' demand could lead the federal tax agency to
become a tool for political disputes.
"This is about whether Congress for the first time,
unprecedented, should use a law that protects your privacy to go
after someone for purely political reasons. That's a dangerous
precedent," Representative Kevin Brady, the top Republican on
Neal's committee, told CNBC.
Separately, Politico on Monday reported that Consovoy and
fellow Trump attorney Stefan Passantino warned accounting firm
Mazars USA against complying with an expected subpoena from
another House panel, the Oversight and Reform Committee. The
Oversight Committee in March had written https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/documents/2019-03-20.EEC%20to%20Wahba-Mazars.pdf
to Mazars USA requesting documents related to services provided
by the firm or its predecessor to Trump and the Trump
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings was expected to
issue the subpoena later on Monday seeking a decade's worth of
Trump's financial records, according to Politico.
Representatives for Neal and Cummings could not be
immediately reached for comment.
(Reporting by David Morgan and Karen Freifeld; additional
reporting by Susan Heavey and Makini Brice; editing by Mary
Milliken and Leslie Adler)
First Published: 2019-04-15 15:27:50
Updated 2019-04-15 21:42:25
© 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Thomson Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. "Reuters" and the Reuters Logo are trademarks of Thomson Reuters and its affiliated companies.