For the second time this month, the Trump Administration and the Internal Revenue Service did not comply with a deadline set by Democrats in Congress to turn over seven years of President Donald Trump's personal and business tax returns, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin now says a final decision will be given to Congress by May 6, ignoring a Tuesday 5 pm deadline set by Democrats in Congress.
"Due to the serious constitutional questions raised by this request and the serious consequences that a resolution of those questions could have for taxpayer privacy," Mnuchin wrote, as he added that he expects to give Congress "a final decision by May 6, after receiving the Justice Department's legal conclusions."
It was the second time that the Treasury Secretary had asked for more time from Democrats, as Mnuchin again labeled the request for President Trump's tax returns "unprecedented."
The ten page letter certainly gave off the feeling that Mnuchin was in no mood to ship the President's tax returns to Democrats in the House, as the Secretary directly questioned whether lawmakers should have the power to see Mr. Trump's tax returns.
"Congress's investigative power is not unlimited," Mnuchin wrote in a section he titled, 'Constitutional Limits.' "Article I grants Congress no express power to investigate."
In statement, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman writes “This afternoon, Secretary Mnuchin notified me that once again, the IRS will miss the deadline for my 6103 request. I plan to consult with counsel about my next steps.”— Lauren Fox (@FoxReports) April 23, 2019
Well before the 5 pm EDT deadline, White House officials had made clear that the President would not force the IRS to comply with the request from Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee.
"The President is pretty clear - once he's out of audit, he'll think about doing it," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley during an appearance on Fox News, as Gidley denounced the Democratic push for Mr. Trump's tax returns as 'ridiculous tactics.'
"Everyone knows he's a very successful billionaire," Gidley added.
Earlier this month, Secretary Mnuchin said more time was needed to evaluate the request, without specifically rejecting the demand for the President's tax information under Section 6103(f) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Democrats argued there was no issue about what should be done.
"They do not have a choice," said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), who said the language under §6103(f) is clear.
"The President is not above the law, and the law is clear that once requested his returns must be furnished," Beyer said.
But the contention by the President and White House officials that Mr. Trump cannot release his tax returns until an audit is completed was knocked down multiple times by the IRS Commissioner in recent testimony before Congress.
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
At this point, it seems the only route for this dispute is in the courts over the following section on the tax code:
"Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure," §6103(f) states.