WASHINGTON ― Democrats have told a U.S. district court that they have evidence that somebody might have interfered with an audit of President Donald Trump’s tax returns ― but they’re still not sharing any details publicly.
The House Ways and Means Committee is suing the Trump administration for copies of his returns, saying they need to make sure the Internal Revenue Service is properly enforcing tax laws against the president.
The committee’s attorneys told U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden in a brief last month that since they filed the suit, a government employee has come forward with “evidence of possible misconduct” and potentially “inappropriate efforts to influence” the president’s audit.
The IRS has audited the sitting president and vice president every year since Richard Nixon got caught underpaying his taxes in the 1970s. Democrats now argue that they need to check that this mandatory audit is done properly.
Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) told HuffPost on Tuesday that “legal considerations” prevent him from talking about the whistleblower’s material, which Democrats offered to share with Judge McFadden in private.
“It was volunteered, it wasn’t solicited,” Neal said of the new evidence. “Other than that, I think I probably want to refrain from any talk on that.”
Democrats had hoped the whistleblower would bolster their argument for speeding up the case, but McFadden denied their motion to expedite the proceedings. It’s unclear if he’s taken the committee up on its offer to share details.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who oversees the IRS, appeared to suggest that he doesn’t know what Democrats have.
“I’m not aware of any interference,” Mnuchin told HuffPost on Tuesday. “We’ve referred that to our inspector general to look into it.”
A spokesperson for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, an internal agency watchdog, said he had no information to share.
The tax lawsuit is one of several legal battles that Democrats are fighting to obtain documents and testimony from the Trump administration, which has engaged in an unprecedented level of stonewalling. Trump is the first president in modern times not to divest from his personal businesses or to voluntarily disclose his tax returns, which detail income, charitable giving and taxes paid.
In a separate case, Deutsche Bank told a court that it has copies of tax returns belonging to Trump or his children that it could hand over to the House Financial Services Committee, which had asked the bank for financial records relating to the Trump family.
The president’s personal attorneys and the Justice Department have been vigorously fighting the Democrats’ lawsuits and could drag the proceedings out until after November 2020, at which point the documents could lose some of their political relevance.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said this week that the president’s refusal to comply with subpoenas, along with his efforts to obstruct justice and refusal to divest from his businesses, is pushing them closer to opening an impeachment inquiry. Evidence of misconduct relating to Trump’s taxes would likely bolster support for impeachment.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said he hasn’t been given details on the whistleblower’s material. But the allegation of misconduct related to the president’s audit fits a pattern, he said, pointing to the IRS burying a legal memo that concluded it couldn’t deny a congressional request for the president’s returns.
Doggett also pointed out that Mnuchin served as the finance chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“I suppose that all that needed to happen was Trump whispering to his former campaign finance director, Mnuchin, that they weren’t going to do this,” Doggett said.