WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump, facing a congressional deadline for his administration to provide his tax returns, said Wednesday that he “won’t do it” while he’s under audit by the IRS.
Trump told reporters on the White House lawn that “I would love to give them, but I’m not going to do it while I’m under audit.”
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has asked the IRS to turn over six years’ of the president’s tax returns by the end of the day.
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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who supervises the IRS, said Tuesday that he’s not seeking direction from the White House on whether to comply. He said the department would likely respond by Neal’s deadline but didn’t say whether he would provide the returns as demanded.
Democrats don’t expect Treasury to comply but they haven’t sketched out their next steps.
Neal has adopted a methodical approach to seeking Trump’s returns. He has the option of eventually seeking to subpoena the records or to go to court if the IRS does not comply, but it’s not clear he’ll adopt a more confrontational approach just yet.
“We intend to follow through with this,” Neal said Wednesday. “I’ll let you know fast.”
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The request for Trump’s tax filings is but one of many oversight efforts launched by Democrats after taking back the House in last fall’s midterms. Neal is relying on a 1920s-era law that says the IRS “shall furnish” any tax return requested by the chairmen of key House and Senate committees.
Mnuchin told lawmakers Treasury will “follow the law” but hasn’t shared the department’s interpretation of the statute.
The head of the IRS, meanwhile, faced questions from lawmakers for a second day on his response to Neal’s request.
“You are on the receiving end of a very aggressive political campaign by the Trump administration. … It is your job, and your job alone, to respond to Chairman Neal’s request,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, told Commissioner Charles Rettig at a hearing by the panel.
Wyden cited the importance of the IRS to be independent of political pressure.
“We’re working on a response with counsel and we will respond,” Rettig said.
Rettig had agreed with Democrats on Tuesday that it’s primarily his decision to make — though he reports to Mnuchin. “You must be aware that we’re a bureau of Treasury, and Treasury supervises us,” he told Wyden on Wednesday.
Rettig said he hadn’t been instructed not to comply with the request by anyone acting on the White House’s behalf.
Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.