The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday sued the Treasury Department and the IRS in an attempt to access President Trump’s tax returns, the latest move by Democrats to obtain the information after the White House defied congressional subpoenas for the documents.
"Despite its mandatory obligation, the Treasury Department failed to comply with the law and denied the Committee’s request. The Administration also refused to comply with the subpoenas," Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in a statement. "Due to that noncompliance, the Committee is now pursuing this matter in the federal courts.”
The White House dismissed the lawsuit as a cynical tactic by committee Democrats who have little interest in doing genuine legislative work.
“While the crisis at our southern border worsens, Democrats continue to focus their efforts on Presidential harassment," Steven Groves, White House deputy press secretary, said to FOX Business. "Chairman Neal’s willingness to use his powerful Committee to go after his political opponents is a danger to democracy. The Committee has no legitimate legislative purpose for which it can demand the President’s tax returns, and it is evident that they are only interested in partisan games. The only thing more political than the Committee’s crusade for the President’s tax returns is its sham lawsuit.”
The panel did not cite a justification for the lawsuit but said it had “multiple oversight and legislative purposes” for seeking the material, including assessing the IRS’s own evaluation of Trump’s compliance with U.S. tax law.
The returns are also necessary for the chamber to determine whether legislation is necessary to strengthen the IRS’s ability to audit presidential taxes, the suit says.
“The Committee is particularly disadvantaged in its present inquiry because President Trump is the first President in modern times that has not made his returns public,” the panel wrote.
In a June memo, the White House Office of Legal Counsel affirmed that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did not have to provide the tax documents to the panel because Neal could then release them to the public.
“Allowing a congressional committee to dictate when Treasury must keep tax information confidential and when it must disclose such information would impermissibly intrude on executive power," the document read.