After Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Tuesday missed yet another deadline to turn over President Donald Trump’s tax returns and signaled he has no intention of willingly giving Congress the documents, progressive advocacy groups urged Democrats to try to force the White House’s hand with a subpoena or a possible contempt charge.
“Neal was stymied by Trump’s bogeymen who are attempting to prevent Congress from conducting effective oversight of President Trump and his administration.”
—Tax March, Stand Up America
Tax March and Stand Up America applauded House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) for working to obtain the president’s tax returns, but said he must go further in the face of the Trump administration’s “illegal” refusal to comply.
“He cannot let the Trump administration hide critical information that will allow both Congress and the American people to hold President Trump accountable,” the groups said in a joint statement Tuesday. “He has no choice but to subpoena the tax returns from the Treasury Department and force the IRS to comply with his request.”
“If this stonewalling continues,” the statement continued, “House Democrats should look into holding Secretary Mnuchin in contempt of Congress.”
The organizations’ call came after Mnuchin sent a letter (pdf) to Neal Tuesday announcing that the Treasury Department—which oversees the IRS—would miss House Democrats’ April 23 deadline. Mnuchin also missed Democrats’ original deadline of April 10.
While Trump Wednesday morning told reporters he would fight all subpoena efforts from the Democratic House, Mnuchin said he expects to inform Congress whether his department will hand over Trump’s tax returns by May 6.
Though Mnuchin claimed Democrats’ request for Trump’s tax returns raises “serious constitutional questions,” Tax March and Stand Up America said the “law is clear” that the Treasury Department is legally obligated to hand over the documents.
“Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and the IRS should have immediately complied with Chairman Neal’s request and furnished President Trump’s tax returns,” the groups said. “Instead, Neal was stymied by Trump’s bogeymen who are attempting to prevent Congress from conducting effective oversight of President Trump and his administration.”
George K. Yin, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, told Roll Call that Mnuchin could be held in contempt of Congress—and even imprisoned—if he continues to defy Democrats’ request.
“The statute is very clear and seems like very strong support for what Mr. Neal is trying to do,” said Yin. “I think [Mnuchin] obviously needs to think very seriously about that; now he might not care if he gets fired, but I think he would care if he gets sent to jail.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said the House must take “prompt action” in response to Mnuchin’s obstruction.
“They don’t get to pick and choose the laws with which they will comply,” Doggett told the New York Times.