House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal re-upped his demand for President Donald Trump’s tax returns on Saturday, telling IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig he has until April 23 to turn over the documents. Neal gives IRS commissioner new deadline for handing over Trump’s tax returns:
“Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,” Neal (D-Mass.) wrote in a letter to Rettig three days after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration would miss Neal’s original April 10 deadline as Treasury consults the Justice Department on the matter.
A subpoena likely would come next from Neal, who told Rettig the IRS has “an unambiguous legal obligation” to turn over the six years of Trump’s personal tax returns and some business returns that Neal has asked for.
Neal’s renewed request is the latest step in what’s expected to be a protracted fight over Trump’s tax returns and comes one day after House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) announced plans to subpoena a decade’s worth of Trump’s financial data from an accounting firm tied to the president.
A top House investigative committee plans to subpoena President Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for Trump’s financial statements on Monday, according to a memo to committee members obtained by The Washington Post.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings on Friday notified panel members of his intention to subpoena the company after it refused to hand over Trump’s financial documents, citing laws and rules that require compulsory measures from the panel.
Cummings (D-Md.) had told reporters earlier this month that the company requested what he called a “friendly subpoena,” before they would comply with the request.
The company said Friday that it “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.”
Neal first told Rettig to fork over Trump’s tax returns by April 10, but Mnuchin answered that day saying he couldn’t meet the deadline. Mnuchin also said he was consulting with Justice Department lawyers about oversight authority and questioned Neal’s motives.
“Those concerns lack merit”, Neal wrote in his new letter to Rettig.
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Mnuchin, speaking to reporters at the World Bank-International Monetary Fund meeting, accused Neal of picking arbitrary dates, and said that the implications of Neal’s request are constitutional and go way beyond congressional oversight and precedent.
Mnuchin said he was sure he’d provide an answer by the next deadline, but wouldn’t commit to finishing a legal review within that time frame, adding that it’s his responsibility to ensure the IRS doesn’t get weaponized as it was under the Nixon administration.
One does not have to go back as far as Nixon to find Republican abuse of the IRS. Republicans “weaponized” the IRS with their bogus “targeting” scandal of conservative nonprofit organizations just a few years ago. The Conservative Crusade Against the IRS Commissioner:
The roots of conservatives’ outrage lie in the 2013 revelation that the IRS had improperly scrutinized Tea Party groups (among others) seeking tax-exempt status. An FBI probe found no evidence of “enemy hunting.” But conservatives have been super miffed at the agency ever since.
“The government went after people for their political beliefs,” fumes Rep. “Gym” Jordan (R-OH), head of the House Freedom Caucus, which has made IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s impeachment a pet cause.
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[T]he past 17 months or so have been a pig pile of lousy days for Koskinen, as conservatives have led a multi-pronged crusade to publicly humiliate him, drive him from office, and strip him of his pension. On September 21, shortly before Congress fled town for the remainder of election, Koskinen had to go before the House Judiciary Committee for a formal impeachment hearing.
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Those paying attention will note that Koskinen was not running the IRS during the period in question. (That was Bush holdover Douglas Shulman, followed by acting commissioner Steven Miller.) Nor was he in charge of doling out tax-exempt designations. That was Lois Lerner, who resigned three years ago but whose name still sets Republicans’ teeth to grinding.
Koskinen was, in fact, nowhere near the IRS until Obama called him in to restore confidence in the embattled agency. Congress confirmed Koskinen in December 2013—and it took all of six months for the new commissioner’s rescue mission to implode. In June 2014, he informed lawmakers that many of Lois Lerner’s subpoenaed emails had been lost in a hard-drive crash, and the backup tapes inadvertently erased.
The Treasury Department’s Inspector General ruled the loss of the tapes an unintentional screw up. Conservatives have decided nonetheless that Koskinen must go. The commissioner has been hauled before multiple committees multiple times in both chambers of Congress. House Republicans have accused him of arrogance, dishonesty, obstruction, foot-dragging, and being generally unhelpful in their investigation.
Last October, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, head of the Government Oversight and Reform Committee, introduced a resolution to begin impeachment proceedings. The resolution has 73 co-sponsors, and the Freedom Caucus has committed itself en masse to the cause. “Every single member said, ‘We should pursue this,’” Jordan [said].
Mnuchin would have the public forget all about how Republicans actually did abuse the IRS to great lengths in pursuit of their cray-cray conspiracy theory that conservative non-profits were “targeted” by the Obama administration. Victimhood is the defining characteristic of modern movement conservatism.
In the instant case, Chairman Neal is using an anti-corruption statute, Code sec. 6103(f), adopted in response to the Tea Pot Dome scandal to pursue rampant corruption within the Trump administration. Congress has an active lawsuit in court for Trump’s violations of the emoluments clause. Federal judge rules congressional Democrats may pursue Trump emoluments lawsuit.
Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen recently testified that Trump misstated his income to banks (bank fraud) and insurance companies (insurance fraud). Trump’s tax returns and financial records are highly relevant evidence to these claims of criminal misconduct.
Trump was also identified as “Individual-1”, the unindicted co-conspirator who coordinated with and instructed Michael Cohen to violate campaign finance laws for which Cohen is going to prison. The only reason Trump was not charged with this crime is because of a bogus DOJ policy.
The Southern District of New York and the New York Attorney General’s office are also investigating Trump’s finances. The New York Attorney General late last year shut down the Trump Foundation for a ‘Shocking Pattern of Illegality’ that included “unlawfully coordinating with Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.” That civil case has led to ongoing criminal investigations.
So, YES, Chairman Neal has several legitimate avenues of investigation squarely within the Committee’s oversight authority to request Trump’s tax returns. It may produce evidence of crimes that should lead to impeachment. “It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury, or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the Committee or its reasonable determinations regarding its need for the requested tax returns and return information,” Chairman Neal’s letter said. He is correct.
So serve the subpoenas, and let’s get it on!
UPDATE: President Trump’s attorneys are threatening legal action if the accounting firm Mazars USA turns over a decade of the president’s financial records to the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He clearly has something to hide. Trump attorneys warn accounting firm not to hand over financial records:
Trump attorneys William S. Consovoy and Stefan Passantino are urging Mazars USA not to comply with a subpoena that Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) plans to issue on Monday for Trump’s financial documents, calling it a politically motivated scheme to take down the president.
The attorneys said they were formally putting Mazars ”on notice” — an implicit threat of legal action. They also urged Bernstein to hold off on providing the documents to Cummings until the subpoena can be litigated in court, suggesting that a protracted legal battle is likely to ensue.
A spokeswoman for Cummings didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter from Trump’s attorneys. Bernstein, Mazars’ outside counsel, also did not respond.
UPDATE: Trump’s lawyer William Consovoy also renewed his criticism of House Democrats’ bid to seize the president’s tax returns, telling the Treasury Department that the lawmakers have offered no good reason to obtain the documents. Trump lawyer attacks Democrats’ bid for tax returns:
William Consovoy attacked Democrats’ arguments that they need Trump’s confidential filings so they can vet the IRS’ audits of the president.
“No one actually believes this,” Consovoy wrote Brent McIntosh, general counsel at Treasury.
What’s more, he said, it’s not Congress’ job to second-guess the agency’s examinations of individual taxpayers.
“Congress has no constitutional authority to act like a junior-varsity IRS, rerunning individual examinations or flyspecking the agency’s calculations,” Consovoy wrote.
A spokesperson for Chairman Neal declined Monday to comment.