The inspector general’s office overseeing the Treasury Department has issued a report insisting that the department, as led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, operated in accordance with regulation when it denied the House Ways and Means Committee’s request for the past six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns. The committee made their request in line with the legal provision that the Treasury Secretary “shall furnish” any individual taxpayer’s tax returns that are requested by the committee, but Mnuchin, as the new inspector general’s report outlines, relied on an opinion from the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel (OLC) in deciding to exempt the president.
The inspector general’s (IG’s) office overseeing the Treasury Department, as currently led by Deputy IG Richard Delmar in the capacity of acting Inspector General, reported that it found Mnuchin’s behavior “to be consistent with Treasury’s general process for handling Congressional correspondence.” The report, it’s worth noting, did not include any opinion on the OLC opinion that Mnuchin used as an excuse to keep Trump’s tax returns from House Dems; instead, it simply insisted that he’d followed protocol.
The office issued its report at the behest of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who was behind the original demand for Trump’s tax returns. After Mnuchin’s initial refusal to comply, Neal issued a subpoena for the tax returns, and after that didn’t spark the Treasury Department’s compliance either, Neal resorted to filing a lawsuit, which is still working its way through the courts.
According to a spokesperson, after the latest developments, Neal “maintains that the law is on his side and he believes his request should be granted.” He’s after the documents amidst concerns that Trump has been allowed to walk scot free without accountability for a slew of fraud allegations, but the Trump team claims that his request lacks a supposedly necessary “legitimate legislative purpose,” which Neal has contested.
Besides the top members of the Ways and Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.) also got a copy of the findings from the Treasury Department’s IG office. He — and Ways and Means Committee ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) — praised the findings as supposed exoneration for Trump’s side.
Grassley offered the partisanship-wracked assertion:
‘This should put to bed any question about the Treasury Department’s handling of this matter. From the beginning, Democrats have insisted that something must be awry if they didn’t immediately get their way. But that’s not how checks and balances work and it’s not how the process of congressional oversight works.’
‘President Trump and his Administration have been exonerated, as expected, from politically motivated allegations of mishandling Congressional inquiries.’
It sounds like he wanted to claim total exoneration for the president — which is just ludicrous. The IG’s office examined a very specific area of inquiry — whether Mnuchin followed protocol — and that neither indicates that the protocol was appropriate in the first place nor absolves the administration of responsibility for their endless slew of other instances of stonewalling Congressional inquiry.