On Wednesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) requested President Donald Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service. Our commander-in-chief may try to block these returns being released, he and senior White House officials indicated on Thursday. However, the 1924 law Neal invoked in his request (to the commissioner of the IRS, mind you, not the president) for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns makes it difficult for the IRS and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (formerly Trump’s finance chairman in the 2016 campaign) not to comply.
That didn’t stop Trump from trotting out the “you’ll speak to my lawyers” routine (the grown-up version of the “my father’s a lawyer” meme).
“They’ll speak to my lawyers and they’ll speak to the attorney general,” the orange man said in the Oval Office, according to the Washington Post.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has claimed his tax returns will not be available because they’re under audit. First off, the auditing part has not been independently verified (Michael Cohen even testified that the president’s taxes were never under audit), and secondly, experts say that the president could release his tax records even if he was under audit. Also, literally every president since Nixon has voluntarily released their tax returns.
“While his taxes continue to be under audit, he doesn’t anticipate that changing at any point anytime soon, and therefore doesn’t have any intention to release those returns,” Sanders stated on Fox News.
The Washington Post noted that if Trump aims to block the tax returns, it may lead to both a constitutional challenge and a case in federal court, but also clarified how the law Neal used severely limits aversion tactics:
The 1924 law that gives Neal the authority to compel the records amended the Internal Revenue Code. It says the treasury secretary “shall furnish … any return or return information specified” in a request from the head of the House or Senate tax-writing committees. The law does not appear to give the treasury secretary any legal mechanism to deny the request.
Knowing Trump, though, he’ll use any means at his disposal to avoid supplying those returns. After all, he brandishes anything refuting others’ criticisms of him (Barr summary, anyone?) like an excited little kid boasting at show-and-tell. As Paste’s Jacob Weindling explains, “The only logical reason why Trump is hiding his returns is because they either prove he is not as rich as he claims to be and/or they expose him to criminal liability.”
Neither Mnuchin nor the IRS have commented publicly on the status of the president’s tax returns since Neal’s request was filed on Wednesday. They don’t have much time to stay mum, though; Neal set a deadline of April 10 for the records to be produced, otherwise he will send another letter.