The House Ways and Means Committee has filed a lawsuit to obtain President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which the Treasury Department has thus far refused to produce.
Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) filed the suit on Tuesday, to reinforce a subpoena for the documents that the department previously rejected in May.
“Defendants have now — for what the Committee believes is the first time ever — denied … [requests for Trump’s taxes] in order to shield [his] tax return information from Congressional scrutiny,” the suit reads. “In refusing to comply with the statute, Defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people who participate in the Nation’s voluntary tax system.”
Democrats previously subpoenaed six years worth of taxes from the president, who has refused to produce his returns, breaking with tradition. The administration has rejected those demands, stating that lawmakers have no “legitimate” reason for requesting the documents. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has claimed the subpoenas represent a gross abuse of power motivated by a partisan desire to undermine the president.
In its repeated refusals, the administration has ignored a section of the Internal Revenue Code that explicitly mandates the Treasury Department “furnish” “any” requested tax information to allow Congress to carry out its oversight responsibilities.
Neal reiterated this point in Tuesday’s lawsuit, stating that it was within Congress’ authority to demand Trump’s returns, which could reveal whether and how his businesses may be profiting off of the presidency and could grant important insight into Trump’s personal finances.
The suit also flays the president’s excuses for defying requests for his taxes, noting that they provide further proof of the need to conduct oversight.
“President Trump himself has repeatedly questioned the integrity of the process by which the IRS audits his tax returns, complaining that his returns are under ‘continuous audit’ and that the IRS’s policy of annually auditing Presidential returns is ‘extremely unfair.’ The President has also publicly theorized that the IRS audits him because of his assertedly strong Christian faith,” the suit reads. “These complaints by President Trump underscore the appropriateness of the Committee’s review of IRS audits of Presidential returns, including those of President Trump.”
In April, Trump filed his own lawsuits against House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in an attempt to stop committee subpoenas for financial information from his longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, and two former lenders, Deutsche Bank and Capital One.
As Politico notes, “In both cases, federal judges rejected similar arguments the administration made contending Democrats do not have a legitimate reason for demanding the records.”
The Trump administration is currently appealing those decisions.