House Ways and Means Committee issues subpoena for Trump tax records


House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) subpoenaed the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service on Friday, disregarding the Treasury secretary’s refusal this week to hand over six years of President Trump’s personal and business tax returns and demanding access. House Ways and Means Chairman Subpoenas Trump Tax Records:

The subpoenas to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Charles P. Rettig, the I.R.S. commissioner, amounted to an unexpected shift in tactics in the yearslong Democratic effort to secure tax returns that President Trump has refused to release. Mr. Mnuchin had rejected a request for the returns made under a little-known provision of the federal tax code that dates back to the Teapot Dome scandal of Warren G. Harding’s administration nearly a century ago.

So Mr. Neal is turning to a more conventional avenue: the subpoena.

“After reviewing the options available to me, and upon the advice of counsel, I issued a subpoena today to the secretary of the Treasury and the commissioner of the I.R.S. for six years of personal and business returns,” Mr. Neal said. “While I do not take this step lightly, I believe this action gives us the best opportunity to succeed and obtain the requested material.”

The new approach is unlikely to be any more fruitful in the short term, given Mr. Trump’s vow to fight all subpoenas from House Democrats … like those other broiling disputes between the legislative and executive branches, the fight over Mr. Trump’s tax returns could soon head to the federal courts.

Mr. Neal gave the agencies until May 17 to produce the records, and is expected to go to court to enforce his request shortly thereafter, if the Trump administration continues to argue that the committee does not have a legitimate legislative purpose that warrants compliance.

Mr. Neal had been weighing whether to go straight to court to try to enforce the century-old tax code provision he relied on initially or to shift course and issue a subpoena to compel production of the returns.

Ultimately, Democrats decided it posed too many risks to bring directly to court.

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An aide to the Ways and Means Committee suggested on Friday that though the panel was confident in the merits of the chairman’s argument, Mr. Neal and lawyers for the House ultimately decided that going straight to court to try to enforce that provision carried too much risk. They feared that a judge could simply throw the case out for lack of standing, essentially rendering use of the tax code provision unenforceable whenever the executive branch objects to its invocation.

This was the legal advice of George K. Yin, Professor of Law and Taxation at the University of Virginia School of Law and a former chief of staff of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation who explained at POLITICO, How to Get Trump’s Tax Returns—Without a Subpoena.

At least chairman Neal is only giving the White House a week to further delay before suing.

In related news, a Federal judge has fast-tracked a ruling on House subpoena for Trump accounting records:

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta will fast-track a decision on President Trump’s bid to quash a House subpoena for financial records from his accounting firm, saying he will decide the full case, not just whether to temporarily block the subpoena while the case proceeds, after a hearing Tuesday.

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 65(a)(2): Consolidating the Hearing with the Trial on the Merits. Before or after beginning the hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction, the court may advance the trial on the merits and consolidate it with the hearing.

“The sole question before the court — Is the House Oversight Committee’s issuance of a subpoena to Mazars USA LLP for financial records of President Donald Trump and various associated entities a valid exercise of legislative power? — is fully briefed, and the court can discern no benefit from an additional round of legal arguments,” Mehta said.

Mehta, an Obama appointee confirmed in 2014, gave all sides until Monday to file any further comments ahead of oral arguments previously set for 11 a.m. on Tuesday in Washington.

[Mazars attorney Henry F. Schuelke has said the firm took no position on the case.]

The announcement means that any appeal of a decision in the case could reach an appeals court by the summer.

Hopefully the federal judge that gets this tax case will follow the lead of U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta and fast-track the case, because it is a simple application of the tax code that has never before been challenged and always complied with by the IRS.

Other House panels have requested Trump’s banking records and tax returns, while his company also faces inquiries from New York state regulators and is defending itself against plaintiffs in two Emoluments Clause lawsuits alleging that his company violates the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments.