House Democrats upped the ante of their push for President Donald Trump’s taxes this past week. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has issued a subpoena for the documents, targeting both IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Just days earlier, Mnuchin told Neal that he did not intend to comply with a request for the documents that Neal had submitted according to the provisions of an old law granting him the power of review.
Neal and others on his side insist that the material including half a dozen years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns is necessary to understand the enforcement of standing federal tax law, including against a sitting president. Trump has been credibly accused of tax fraud and alleged to have inflated and deflated his assets in order to financially benefit himself, which has culminated in investigations inside and outside of Congress into possible insurance and bank fraud too.
Speaking publicly before the House Oversight Committee, former longtime Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen insisted that the tax returns would be a key piece of evidence to examine in looking at the fraud allegations — but Democrats can’t get their hands on that prize yet.
CNN shares that although the subpoena Neal issued in response to the latest stonewalling wasn’t necessary to bring a court case in the first place, legal counsel concluded that the move would make such a case stronger when it did emerge. The tax law provision under which Neal made his original request has never actually been challenged in court, although it’s around 100 years old. Congressional subpoenas, meanwhile, are a much more established fixture of the American political landscape — just this past week, in response to Attorney General William Barr defying one, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold that Trump appointee in contempt of Congress.
Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) has said he’d support holding Mnuchin in contempt too, but Neal doesn’t seem keen on that route. In this case, Mnuchin and others on the right have insisted in defense of their stonewalling that the House Democratic request lacks a “legitimate legislative purpose,” although Neal himself has pointed out an array of court cases outlining the legal precedent against questioning the motivation of legally allowed and even mandated Congressional action, which would politicize it.
Besides the looming court fight on this front, House Democrats are also preparing to go to court in an effort to obtain the full, unredacted final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the collected underlying evidence. There are two standing subpoenas for the material, including from the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, but the Trump team has refused to comply. In recent days, at the urging of Barr, they went so far they declared executive privilege over the entire material in an effort to keep it from Congressional and eventually public consumption — which is a strange at best thing to do if the document delivers total and complete exoneration like they claim.
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