WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin scolded Democrats on Tuesday about their request for copies of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, saying they ought to be glad Republicans didn’t do the same.
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) asked the Internal Revenue Service for six years of Trump’s personal and business returns last week. By law, the treasury secretary, who oversees the IRS, is supposed to hand over the documents.
Mnuchin declined to say if he would do so but suggested the request was out of line since Trump won the election in 2016 and had already disclosed some information about his personal finances.
“I am sure there are many prominent Democrats who are relieved that when [Texas Republican] Kevin Brady was the chairman of the committee, he didn’t request specific returns,” Mnuchin told Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) during a hearing on Treasury’s budget.
Quigley pointed out that President Barack Obama voluntarily disclosed his tax returns each year.
“I was referring to other members of Congress, prominent Democratic people who may support people, ordinary taxpayers,” Mnuchin said.
Brady chaired Ways and Means until Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and its committees this year. Mnuchin is correct that during his chairmanship, Brady did not ask the Treasury Department for anyone’s tax returns, which is something tax committee chairs are allowed to do under a long-standing provision of the tax code.
But a previous Republican Ways and Means chairman did use his return-getting powers in 2014 when Republicans obtained and published private tax information relating to dozens of conservative and liberal nonprofit groups seeking recognition of their tax-exempt status from the IRS. Republicans said the information showed the IRS unfairly targeted conservative groups for audits.
Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) acted as though Republicans would never have done such a thing.
“We all know this is a political stunt by the new majority who just couldn’t wait to get a gavel and scour through all the rules of the Ways and Means Committee into how they might use their political power and influence to retaliate against a political opponent,” Graves said.
Trump used to say he had no problem releasing his tax information, as every president has done since Richard Nixon, but he refused to do so once he assumed office.
Democrats have given the IRS until Wednesday to respond to their request.