Trump administration defies tax return subpoena

WASHINGTON ― Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Friday that the administration will not comply with a subpoena for copies of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, setting up yet another legal showdown with Democrats

Democrats’ request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” and the Treasury Department is therefore “not authorized” to hand over the documents,  Mnuchin said in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.). 

The tax returns are just one part of a broader standoff between the Trump administration and Congress. Lawmakers have a constitutional right to oversee the executive branch, but the White House has been stonewalling demands for testimony and documents.

Democrats will probably be at the mercy of federal courts to enforce their subpoenas, although some lawmakers have talked about dusting off the legislature’s own power to force compliance through jail or fines. 

Neal requested six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns last month and followed through with the subpoena last week after Mnuchin refused the initial request. 

“I didn’t think that they would turn it over,” Neal told HuffPost on Thursday, before Mnuchin had officially defied the subpoena.  

RELATED: Take a look at some of the things Trump could've purchased with the amount he allegedly paid in taxes:

7 PHOTOS
7 things Trump could've purchased with the $38M he paid in taxes
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7 things Trump could've purchased with the $38M he paid in taxes

190 initiation fees
for Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach

Cost per member initiation: $200K

Photo credit: Getty

2,715 annual memberships
to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach

Cost per membership: $14K/year

Photo credit: Getty

190 sets of diamonds
That Ivanka Trump wore to her wedding

Cost of Ivanka Trump's wedding day jewelry: $200K

Photo credit: Getty

26 engagement rings
That Donald Trump proposed to Melania with

Cost of Melania Trump's engagement ring: $1.5M

Photo credit: Getty

845 annual tuitions
To the high school that Barron Trump attends, Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School

Tuition cost: $45K/Year

Photo credit: Getty

543 annual tuitions
To the university that Tiffany Trump attended, University of Pennsylvania 

Tuition cost: $70K/year

Photo credit: Getty

10,556 Gucci jackets
That Kellyanne Conway wore to the 2017 Presidential Inauguration

Cost of jacket: $3.6K

Photo credit: Reuters 

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Neal declined to discuss next steps but has previously said he would sue in federal court and ask a judge to enforce the subpoena. Courts have repeatedly ordered executive branch officials to cooperate with subpoenas, but the process typically takes longer than election cycles, meaning Trump could be out of office before Democrats can win.  

Neal’s subpoena is just one of 10 that Democrats have issued. A subpoena is a legally enforceable demand for information. 

“I’m concerned that we want to get this done as rapidly as possible and that we want to figure out how to expedite the court fights as rapidly as possible,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who subpoenaed for an unredacted copy of the special counsel investigation into the president’s 2016 campaign and subsequent efforts to obstruct investigations, said Thursday.

One difference between the other subpoenas and the request for the tax returns is that there’s a federal law explicitly stating the Treasury Department is supposed to hand over any tax returns requested by chairs of congressional committees that write tax laws. The statute should give Democrats an even stronger position in court. 

Mnuchin said Tuesday during a hearing on the Treasury Department’s budget that he would be glad to let a court deal with the tax return request, ostensibly because he didn’t want to “set a precedent” of politicians seizing private tax information to damage their enemies. Another possibility is that Mnuchin just doesn’t want to hand over documents that his boss would like to keep secret, and would prefer if a court forced his hand. 

“If this issue goes through the courts, I think it’s better that we have the court’s interpretation,” Mnuchin said.  

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