Treasury Defies Law to Deny House Request for Trump’s Tax Returns

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I was wrong. I guess Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Bond villain Steve Mnuchin, decided that going to prison for Donald Trump is worth it … Trump’s taxes are the hill that he is willing to die on.

The New York Times reports, Treasury Dept. Declines House Request for Trump’s Tax Returns:

The Treasury Department said on Wednesday evening that it would not immediately comply with a congressional request to hand over President Trump’s tax returns, setting up a protracted legal battle between two branches of government.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said in a letter to Representative Richard E. Neal, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, that the Treasury Department’s lawyers needed more time to assess the lawfulness of the request and expressed concern that it would be a violation of taxpayer privacy.

Mr. Mnuchin did not say how much time the review would take but conveyed concerns about whether Congress has authority to review the records.

“The committee’s request raises serious issues concerning the constitutional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose and the constitutional rights of American citizens,” Mr. Mnuchin wrote. “The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically motivated disclosures of tax information, regardless of which party is in power.”

Mr. Neal responded to Mr. Mnuchin’s decision with a terse statement that indicated he believed the request was a matter for the Internal Revenue Service, not the Treasury secretary: “I will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response to the commissioner in the coming days.”

Chairman Neal is correct. Let’s review: former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers informs, The IRS chief must release Trump’s tax returns — and Mnuchin must not stop him:

As best I can determine, the appropriate response of the treasury secretary is very clear: Under a long-standing delegation order, the secretary does not get involved in taxpayer-specific matters and has delegated to the IRS commissioner as follows: “The Commissioner of Internal Revenue shall be responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws.”

Moreover, this is not a delegation that is readily revocable. Federal law provides that if the secretary determines not to delegate a power, such determination may not take effect until 30 days after the secretary notifies the tax-writing (and other specified) committees.

So for the secretary to seek to decide whether to pass on the president’s tax return to Congress would surely be inappropriate and probably illegal.

So IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig defied federal law, Code sec. 6103(f), by failing to respond to Chairman Neal’s lawful request for Trump’s taxes. And Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin improperly involved himself in a taxpayer-specific matter in violation of a long-standing delegation order. Moreover, his letter does not notify Chairman Neal that the secretary has determined not to delegate this matter to the IRS Commissioner, in vioation of federal law.

It is a federal crime for Donald Trump (or the Treasury Secretary on his behalf, 26 U.S. Code §7217(e)(2)) to instruct the IRS to not comply with this congressional request. 26 U.S. Code § 7217. Prohibition on executive branch influence over taxpayer audits and other investigations. The penalty, in subsection (d):

Any person who willfully violates subsection (a) or fails to report under subsection (b) shall be punished upon conviction by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.

Moreover, there is no basis for Secretary Mnuchin to request a legal opinion from the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, because the language of Code sec. 6103(f) is clear and unambiguous: Upon written request by either the Chairman of either the House Ways and Means Committee or the Senate Finance Committee, the Treasury Secretary “shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request.”

In legal parlance, “shall” is an imperative command; it is a ministerial duty that one is required to do. There is no discretion to comply.

The IRS has routinely complied with this law since the Teapot Dome scandal. As Lawrence O’Donnell explained:

[T]he chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has the unique power written into law that allows him to obtain anyone’s tax returns. And obtaining public official’s tax returns, including the president, is one of the things that this law was actually designed to do. The law allows the chairmen of the tax writing committees in the House and in the Senate to obtain any tax returns that they want to see. And no one has ever successfully blocked them from doing that, ever.”

It could have been a much shorter letter, if anyone had ever successfully blocked one of the tax writing committees from obtaining a tax return, because if that had ever happened the president’s lawyer could simply cite that case, claim it applies here, and redone with it.

But this has never happened.

“Chairman Neal is expected to send a follow-up letter demanding the tax returns and outlining potential next steps, which could include a subpoena or a lawsuit.”

Just serve the damn subpoena already, no more fooling around with these lawless corrupt individuals.

[T]he provision in tax law that Democrats are using appears to give the Trump administration little leeway to resist their request; it says merely that the Treasury secretary “shall” furnish the requested information. It was used several times by House Republicans when they were investigating whether the I.R.S. had improperly delayed applications by conservative groups for nonprofit status.

We all know the rule: IOKIYAR.

Some Democrats quickly denounced the Treasury Department’s decision on Wednesday.

“How many lawyers and how much time does it take for Secretary Mnuchin to understand that ‘shall’ means ‘shall’?” said Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, a member of the Ways and Means Committee. “Again, believing that he is above the law, Trump is engaged in obstruction.”

Clearly Trump has something to hide in his tax returns. And his Republican accomplices in Congress will conspire with him to obstruct the law to try to keep that “something” hidden from the American public. They have reason to know that this grifter and con man is a tax evader and money launderer, but they just don’t care. Because IOKIYAR.