Mnuchin Tells Congress He Will Not Turn Over Trump’s Tax Returns

The Treasury Secretary is declining to comply with a Congressional request for the President's tax returns. Whether this is proper is a question that will have to be resolved by the courts.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has informed the Democratic Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee that he would not comply with a request for a copy of the President’s tax returns, setting up what appears as though it will be yet another confrontation between the White House and Congress over document requests:

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department said on Monday that it would not release President Trump’s tax returns to Congress, defying a request from House Democrats and setting up a legal battle likely to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, wrote in a letter to Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, that Mr. Neal’s request for the tax returns “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” and that he was not authorized to disclose them. The decision came after weeks of delays as Mr. Mnuchin said that his department and the Justice Department needed to study the provision of the tax code that Democrats were using to seek six years’ worth of the president’s personal and business tax returns.

The request for Mr. Trump’s taxes is the latest instance of the Trump administration rebuffing congressional oversight efforts.

“As you have recognized, the committee’s request is unprecedented, and it presents serious constitutional questions, the resolution of which may have lasting consequences for all taxpayers,” Mr. Mnuchin wrote in the one-page letter.

He added that “the department may not lawfully fulfill the committee’s request.”

Mr. Neal issued a terse statement on Monday afternoon in response to Mr. Mnuchin: “I will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response.”

Mr. Mnuchin, who is one of Mr. Trump’s most trusted aides, has signaled his concern about the request, arguing that it appeared to be political in nature and that honoring the demand would be a violation of taxpayer privacy. He has warned that if the I.R.S. releases Mr. Trump’s returns, then lawmakers from both parties could be vulnerable to such prying. In an April 23 letter to Mr. Neal, Mr. Mnuchin said that the demand amounted to “exposure for the sake of exposure.”

The Treasury secretary said that the Justice Department would memorialize its advice on the matter in a published legal opinion.
House Democrats have argued that the law is clear that congressional tax writing committees have broad authority to request the returns of any taxpayer. Mr. Neal said that the request was made so that Congress can assess the effectiveness of the automatic audits that all sitting presidents face.

In his letter, Mr. Mnuchin said that the Treasury Department was willing to provide more information to the committee about how the I.R.S. conducts its mandatory examinations of presidential tax returns .

Mr. Trump has argued that the request was an example of presidential harassment by House Democrats, who have been investigating his business dealings since taking power this year. The president’s personal lawyer sent letters to the Treasury Department urging it not to release his financial information.

Pursuant to 26 U.S.C. Sec 6103(f), the Ways and Means Committee is entitled to request a copy of anyone’s tax return:

Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.

While the authority of the committee to request a copy of a taxpayer’s return appears from the statute to be virtually unlimited. However, there are two important restrictions that seem to form the basis of Mnuchin’s denial of Chairman Neal’s request. The first is set forth in the statute itself and provides that the return in question will only be provided to the committee in closed session unless the taxpayer consents otherwise. The second can be found in holdings by the Supreme Court in two cases, McGrain v. Daugherty, a 1927 case arising out of one of Congress’ investigations into the Teapot Dome scandal, and Watkins v. United States, a 1957 case dealing with a union officials conviction for contempt of Congress. The facts of these cases are not important to the current issue, but both stand for the proposition that any Congressional investigation into the private affairs of an individual must serve a “legitimate legislative purpose.” In his letter to Chairman Neal, Secretary Mnuchin essentially argues that the Committee has failed to provide a legitimate legislative purpose for requesting the Presidents tax returns. Mnuchin states that this determination was made pursuant to guidance from the Justice Department, which will apparently be making its position known in a legal memorandum to be provided in the near future.

The Committee’s options at this point lie in one of two directions. The first option would be to file a lawsuit against the Treasury Department alleging that it has failed to comply with the requirements of Sec. 6103(f). The second would be to issue a subpoena for the returns, which it has not done as of yet. Given the Treasury Department’s response to the 6103(f) request, it’s obvious that Mnuchin will also decline to respond to the subpoena. This basically means that either option means a likely protracted court fight during which the chief issue will be whether the committee has a “legitimate legislative purpose” in seeking the returns or whether it is on a fishing expedition for which there is no legitimate motive outside of a purely political one.

As a matter of law, it is difficult to say at this point what the “right” answer is to the legal issues here. If the matter does end up before the courts then the committee will be required to specify what the “legitimate legislative purpose” is for its request of the President’s confidential tax returns. While Congress does have broad authority to investigate the Executive Branch, that authority is not unlimited and this is one of the cases where it must be able to articulate why it needs to see the returns beyond merely stating “we want to see them.”

This, of course, is just one example of the extent to which the Trump Administration has decided to respond to the increasing pressure of Congressional investigations by stonewalling as much as possible. Whether this will work or not, and what impact it may have on how the public views the Administration, remains to be seen.

Update: Amber Phillips at The Washington Post lays out the legal argument behind Mnuchin’s refusal to comply with Chairman Neal’s request in more detail:

The fight for Congress to obtain President Trump’s tax returns centers on one question: Is Congress requesting them for a legislative reason?

No one disputes that Congress has a right to request them. A 1924 law gives House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) the ability to request any taxpayer information from the Internal Revenue Service. (Here’s the backstory on the bribery scandal that led to that law.) It’s a powerful law that allows the chair of Congress’s main tax-writing committee to get a person’s tax returns as well as underlying files about that person’s taxes, such as the W-2 form that details how much someone made in a year. If there’s something Trump has been hiding from the public in his tax returns for the past six years, this law ensures that the committee should see it. (And potentially make it public.)

But members of Congress can’t request someone’s tax returns just because they want to. That would be ripe for abuse. They must have a reason to see the taxes that directly relates to their job as part of a lawmaking body.

So what legislation is Congress going to introduce, or consider introducing, based on Trump’s tax returns? That’s where the Trump administration thinks it has a case to make.

“I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wrote in a letter to Congress on Monday, when telling lawmakers that he won’t be sharing the president’s tax returns.

Neal has argued that his legitimate legislative reason is this: The IRS has a policy that every year it reviews the tax returns of the president and vice president to make sure they’re not doing anything fishy and to instill public confidence that they aren’t above the law.

But Congress has no idea how thorough the IRS is with this. Does it do a full audit? A cursory check looking only for red flags? A Democratic committee aide pointed out that the IRS has appeared to go easy on a president before. Richard Nixon once received a letter from the agency saying that his taxes were a-okay, only for Congress to find out that he owed $500,000 in interest and back taxes.

This is all IRS policy, not a law written by Congress. Trump is the first president in decades not to share his taxes with the public, so Democrats argue that this is a good time to consider giving Congress more oversight into how the IRS reviews a president’s taxes. To do that, it needs to request this president’s returns.

We don’t know exactly why the administration thinks this isn’t a “legitimate legislative purpose.” Mnuchin wrote in his letter to Congress that the Justice Department, which he consulted for this decision, is going to share its reasoning soon.

But we can deduce that the argument has something to do with the timing. Democrats won control of the House and immediately opened half a dozen investigations of Trump and his presidency and business practices. Did Democrats decide they wanted to get Trump’s tax returns and craft a legislative reason around it?

Other than the two Supreme Court cases I cited above, there’s very little legal precedent out there that speaks to the issue of when a Congressional investigation is legitimate and when it does not serve a “legitimate legislative purpose.” Surely, we cannot simply take the word of Congress as gospel in a situation like this, particularly because we are talking about highly personal information that, could be subject to being abused for political purposes. That’s why Congress simply can’t say “we demand to see the returns of Taxpayer John Doe” without providing at least some legitimate reason for why they need them. At the same time, though, I would argue that the deference on this issue should be on the side of Congress and that if it comes down to being a close issue the courts should uphold the right of Congress to use its oversight and investigatory powers as permitted by law. Because this appears to be case of first impression, though, it’s unclear which way the lower courts and, if necessary at some point, the Supreme Court will come down.

Update #2: On a related note, California is the latest state to consider a law that would require candidates to release tax returns as a price for appearing on the state’s ballot. As I note in the linked post, it is not at all clear that this is permitted under the Constitution.

Here’s a copy of Secretary Mnuchin’s letter to the Committee

Mnuchin Letter to Ways and … by on Scribd

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Congress, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, Taxes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    This is why I call Trump defenders liars. It is not possible for a rational person to honestly defend Trump’s intransigence on this without tacitly accepting that he is guilty of something and desperate to conceal it. IOW, Trumpaloons now know they are defending a criminal. When you read their arguments they invariably assume Trump’s guilt. No one ever says, “Trump’s got nothing to hide, I think he should release his returns.” It’s always, “But Democrats. . .”

    I would have more respect for the Culties if they admitted they know Trump is a criminal, actively, currently engaged in corruption and attacking the rule of law in a frantic effort to hide the evidence. That at least would be honest. But instead they insist on lying, on pretending to believe what they do not actually believe. Of course this is true of Trumpies and so-called conservatives more broadly: they never, ever tell the truth about their motives. Ever.

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  2. KM says:

    The Committee’s options at this point lie in one of two directions.

    You missed a third – jail for contempt of Congress. Seriously, let him stew in a cell while all that legal paperwork is being handled. If we have to wait while this winds through the courts, why shouldn’t he cool his heels in a cell for forcing an unnecessary delay?

    Trump’s pushing the line to see what he can get away with and the more inches you give him, the more miles he’ll steal. If you want to lie in the service of His Orangeness, then be prepared to wear stripes for months.

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  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The Treasury Secretary is declining to comply with a Congressional request for the President’s tax returns

    No. Fuq no.
    Mnunchkin is breaking the law. There is no wiggle room here.
    “Legitimate legislative purpose” doesn’t matter…although the POTUS’s many conflicts of interest certainly warrant oversight.
    Mnunchkin should be in jail.

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  4. @KM:

    Congress has not pursued this option for almost 100 years. And in a case where there appears to be a legitimate legal question, I think it would be inappropriate.

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  5. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    As I note in the post, whether or not 6103(f) requires the returns to be turned over is legally complicated. The courts will need to resolve this.

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  6. @KM:

    Also keep in mind that the statute provides that even if the returns are ultimately turned over to the committee they cannot be made public without the consent of the taxpayer.

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  7. Scott F. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’d note that a President and his administration hasn’t shown this level of contempt for congressional oversight in more than a 100 years, if ever. Rare malfeasance calls for rare consequences.

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  8. dennis says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Of course this is true of Trumpies and so-called conservatives more broadly: they never, ever tell the truth about their motives. Ever.

    Don’t worry, MR; sooner or later, everybody gets got. It may not be today; it may not be tomorrow; but, it’s inevitable. Everybody gets got, and Trump will get his just desserts, too.

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  9. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Please explain the complication to me. Set forth below is the full text of the relevant subsection. What is the colorable argument (other than insisting it be closed doors)? I don’t see any wiggle room but I haven’t studied the tax code since law school.

    (f) Disclosure to Committees of Congress
    (1) Committee on Ways and Means, Committee on Finance, and Joint Committee on Taxation
    Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.

    (2) Chief of Staff of Joint Committee on Taxation
    Upon written request by the Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish him with any return or return information specified in such request. Such Chief of Staff may submit such return or return information to any committee described in paragraph (1), except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.

    (3) Other committees
    Pursuant to an action by, and upon written request by the chairman of, a committee of the Senate or the House of Representatives (other than a committee specified in paragraph (1)) specially authorized to inspect any return or return information by a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives or, in the case of a joint committee (other than the joint committee specified in paragraph (1)) by concurrent resolution, the Secretary shall furnish such committee, or a duly authorized and designated subcommittee thereof, sitting in closed executive session, with any return or return information which such resolution authorizes the committee or subcommittee to inspect. Any resolution described in this paragraph shall specify the purpose for which the return or return information is to be furnished and that such information cannot reasonably be obtained from any other source.

    (4) Agents of committees and submission of information to Senate or House of Representatives
    (A) Committees described in paragraph (1)
    Any committee described in paragraph (1) or the Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation shall have the authority, acting directly, or by or through such examiners or agents as the chairman of such committee or such chief of staff may designate or appoint, to inspect returns and return information at such time and in such manner as may be determined by such chairman or chief of staff. Any return or return information obtained by or on behalf of such committee pursuant to the provisions of this subsection may be submitted by the committee to the Senate or the House of Representatives, or to both. The Joint Committee on Taxation may also submit such return or return information to any other committee described in paragraph (1), except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.

    (B) Other committees
    Any committee or subcommittee described in paragraph (3) shall have the right, acting directly, or by or through no more than four examiners or agents, designated or appointed in writing in equal numbers by the chairman and ranking minority member of such committee or subcommittee, to inspect returns and return information at such time and in such manner as may be determined by such chairman and ranking minority member. Any return or return information obtained by or on behalf of such committee or subcommittee pursuant to the provisions of this subsection may be submitted by the committee to the Senate or the House of Representatives, or to both, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer, shall be furnished to the Senate or the House of Representatives only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.

    (5) Disclosure by whistleblower
    Any person who otherwise has or had access to any return or return information under this section may disclose such return or return information to a committee referred to in paragraph (1) or any individual authorized to receive or inspect information under paragraph (4)(A) if such person believes such return or return information may relate to possible misconduct, maladministration, or taxpayer abuse.

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  10. Paul L. says:

    Trump Administration has decided to respond to the increasing pressure of Congressional investigations by stonewalling as much as possible.

    So just like the Obama Administration with Fast and Furious and IRS targeting of Tea Party groups.
    @michael reynolds:

    It is not possible for a rational person to honestly defend Trump’s intransigence on this without tacitly accepting that he is guilty of something and desperate to conceal it

    See above for WhatAboutism. Just wait until Trump finds out about Executive Privilege.

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  11. Paul L. says:

    @Scott F.:

    I’d note that a President and his administration hasn’t shown this level of contempt for congressional oversight in more than a 100 years

    You forgot Fast and Furious and IRS targeting of Tea Party groups

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  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    whether or not 6103(f) requires the returns to be turned over is legally complicated.

    The only complication that I can see is that the SCOTUS, with Justice Boof staggering thru the hallways, can no longer be seen as a fair arbitrator of the law.
    Daniel Shaviro, law professor, New York University

    This is not an issue on which there is any possibility of reasonable disagreement. Any well-informed person who disagrees either that the Ways and Means Committee has an obligation to demand Trump’s tax returns as part of fulfilling its oversight duties or that Trump is legally obliged to turn them over is either a partisan hack or contemptuous of the rule of law.

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  13. Kathy says:

    @Scott F.:

    This gives not just El Cheeto, but all his cabal, a great motivation for winning in 2020: staying out of prison.

    Pelosi should get together with the party leadership, and set out a case for the kind of oversight they are attempting to conduct. Then they can justify their requests for documents and testimony. Then the onus will be on team Cheeto to prove they’re not obstructing legitimate Congressional business.

    This will not sway a single Dennison supporter. It may not sway many Dennison enablers, either. But it will affect lots of engaged independent voters.

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  14. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:
    The facts:

    In 2013, IRS official Lois Lerner revealed that conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status had been getting extra scrutiny, based on words such as “tea party” or “patriots” in their names.

    For conservatives, she confirmed their darkest suspicions. In the Tea Party heyday years of 2009 and 2010, hundreds of groups affiliated with the party had sought tax-exempt status as 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations. IRS demands for documents left many of them in bureaucratic limbo for a year or more.

    Now, in the third audit of how the tax-exempt application process went off the rails, the Treasury Department’s inspector general overseeing the IRS has found the agency targeted not just conservatives but also scores of groups with words like “progressive” in their names.

    And on Fast and Furious:

    Horowitz [DOJ’s IG] destroys the conspiracy theories on both sides of the aisle over 471-pages, but it’s the right wing screamers who come out looking worst. Horowitz shows definitively that the Arizona ATF agents and prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office there were responsible for the operation, not the White House or the Justice Department in Washington and that the primary source of the inaccurate testimony given to Congress was the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke.

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  15. drj says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I am pretty confident that Paul L. and the other headless chickens can’t even explain what the Fast and Furious scandal was about.

    Assuming the very worst, it would have been a misguided and botched attempt by Obama’s DoJ (rather than a local ATF division) to dismantle a bunch of Mexican crime cartels.

    Paul L. and friends treat the scandal like it was a deliberate attempt by Eric “Blackity Black” Holder to arm Mexican criminals to… kill Whitey or something? I truly don’t know.

    Same with Benghazi. These idiots never explain why Hillary Clinton wanted that special intervention team to stand down. Because she hates America?

    Nothing about this makes sense.

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  16. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Paul L.:
    Yet another red-hatted loon sighting.
    The IRS, F&F, and Benghazi…all investigated ad nauseum and nothing found.
    Mueller laid out a roadmap to Impeachment for Obstruction…and you aren’t interested.

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  17. @SKI:

    The answer is found in the two Supreme Court opinions and the general requirement that Congressional investigations serve a “legitimate legislative purpose.”

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  18. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    This is the matter on which there is a legal dispute, and why it will be up to the courts to decide if the request and/or denial is permissible under the law.

    And again I remind you that even if the IRS is eventually required to turn the returns over, the statute provides that they cannot be made public without the taxpayer’s consent.

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  19. wr says:

    @dennis: “Don’t worry, MR; sooner or later, everybody gets got. It may not be today; it may not be tomorrow; but, it’s inevitable. Everybody gets got, and Trump will get his just desserts, too.”

    Yeah, it’s a lovely story, and there are good reasons we tell it to children. But it’s not even remotely true. From war criminals like Henry Kissinger and Elliot Abrams to billionaire criminals responsible for tanking the economy like the vampire squids at Goldman Sachs, plenty of truly evil men will die rich and contented and never even remotely “got.”

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  20. Paul L. says:

    @michael reynolds:
    What are the names of the progressive groups? How many? 30 progressive to 200+ tea party
    Did progressive groups sue the IRS?

    The DOJ AG was not allowed to interview or investigate anyone in White House about Fast and Furious.
    From Wiki

    [the OIG report] did fault 14 lower officials for related failures, including failures to take note of “red flags” uncovered by the investigation, as well as failures to follow up on information produced through Operation Fast and Furious and its predecessor, Operation Wide Receiver. The report also noted ATF agents’ apparent frustrations over legal obstacles from the Phoenix Attorney’s Office to prosecuting suspected “straw-buyers,” while also criticizing the agents’ failure to quickly intervene and interdict weapons obtained by low-level suspects in the case. The 14 Justice Department employees were referred for possible internal discipline. The Justice Department’s Criminal Division head Lanny Breuer, an Obama administration presidential appointee, was cited for not alerting his bosses in 2010 to the flaws of Operation Wide Receiver. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, who was responsible for authorizing a portion of the wiretap applications in Operation Fast and Furious and faulted in the report for not identifying the gunwalking tactics, resigned on the day of the report.

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  21. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis: And Neal articulated one – “congressional oversight” of federal officials – that clearly satisfies this requirement. When you add in that the underlying statute was specifically drafted in response to the Teapot Dome scandal and there are a variety of clearly appropriate oversight activities related to Trump (emoluments, tax policy, conflicts of interest, possible impeachment, etc.).

    Where is a good faith argument that no valid purpose exists? What Court is going to look at this, ignore what Congress stated as its purpose, and claim that all this is a pretext?

    How do you see this as a close call?

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  22. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    This is the matter on which there is a legal dispute

    The only real dispute here is whether Dennison, already an un-indicted co-conspirator in a felony election fraud case, is above the law or he isn’t.

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  23. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    That is a matter of opinion, specifically yours. I am, as you know, no fan of the Presidents but I do think there is a legitimate legal issue for courts to examine here.

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  24. A note to all commenters:

    I’ve posted an update to the post that lays out the legal issues in more detail.

    As I said in my comment, I believe that the issue is close enough that it is one that the courts will need to resolve.

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  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:
    And what do you suppose it would prove IF every one of your accusations about Obama were true? Is your theory that if anyone has done a thing that thing is now acceptable? So if I commit murder, it’s OK for you to commit murder? That’s the ‘logic?’ That’s your version of morality? Person X raped a child so it must be OK for me to rape a child?

    It goes to your core dishonesty. You were so terribly upset by things you hated about Obama that you justify supporting someone who is orders of magnitude worse? Explain, please, just what your version of morality is.

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  26. drj says:

    @Paul L.:

    The DOJ AG [sic] was not allowed to interview or investigate anyone in White House about Fast and Furious.

    Your subsequent quote doesn’t support this assertion at all. I guess you made it up on the spot.

    And you conveniently omitted the very first sentence of the quoted paragraph, because it kills your argument:

    While the OIG report found no evidence that higher officials at the Justice Department in Washington had authorized or approved of the tactics used in the Fast and Furious investigations, it did fault 14 lower officials for related failures…

    You’re flailing.

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  27. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    That’s why Congress simply can’t say “we demand to see the returns of Taxpayer John Doe” without providing at least some legitimate reason for why they need them.

    But that’s not what Congress said. Neal gave a perfectly legitimate reason with his request.
    Of course it will be decided by the court…that’s inevitable…because Dennison does not believe the law applies to him and the Republican party, by-and-large, agrees with that.
    I also assume, at this point, that it will be decided 5-4 with Justice Boof writing the decision. Burp.

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  28. Paul L. says:

    @drj:
    I made it up on the spot?
    DOJ inspector general: Obama administration obstructed Fast and Furious investigation

    “As we noted in the report — and, as you know, Congressman, we did not get internal communications from the White House — and Mr. [Kevin] O’Reilly’s unwillingness to speak to us made it impossible for us to pursue that angle of the case and the question that had been raised,”…In the report, Horowitz’s team wrote that “[t]he White House did not produce to us any internal White House communications.”

    I have no idea why Obama/Holder wanted to run guns to Mexico?

    President Obama said, that “[m]ore than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States

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  29. Paul L. says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    The IRS, F&F, and Benghazi…all investigated ad nauseum and nothing found.

    IRS/DOJ settled with Tea Party groups. True the Vote case is still in court.
    GOP does not want to look into it because John McCain was part of it.

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  30. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Congress isn’t proposing to make the returns public.

    On it’s face, you seem to be agreeing with Darryl that the only legal issue is Justice Boof. But I’m not at all sure that’s what you meant. ??

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  31. @gVOR08:

    I am not agreeing with Darryl. I don’t believe the answer to the question of whether or not this is a proper request under applicable law is nearly as clear cut as he does. Hence it will be up to the courts — and not just Justice Kavanaugh — to decide this issue.

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  32. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Once again (sigh), there is a legitimate legal issue here that the courts will need to resolve.

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  33. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Once again (sigh), what is the legitimate legal claim that the stated reasons aren’t valid exercises of Congressional oversight?

    To use the phrase from Watkins , how is the request not clearly tied to a “legitimate task of the Congress”?

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  34. @SKI:

    Given that the purpose stated by the committee — determining how the IRS goes about giving special attention to returns filed by sitting Presidents — can be determined without reference to the tax returns of a specific individual, I would argue that there is no basis in that context for asking for this persons returns specificially.

    Again, the courts are designed to handle these disputes and that is most likely what will happen here. Given that, arguing about them in a comment thread seems rather pointless.

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  35. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Again, the courts are designed to handle these disputes and that is most likely what will happen here. Given that, arguing about them in a comment thread seems rather pointless.

    Says the guy who wrote the post on the issue in the first place. 🙂

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  36. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Once again (sigh), there is a legitimate legal issue here that the courts will need to resolve.

    “Committee is considering legislative proposals and conducting oversight related to our Federal tax laws, including, but not limited to, the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the Federal tax laws against a President.”

    There is no question that this is a legitimate oversight concern; Nixon’s lenient IRS audit is proof of it.
    The worst thing that can happen for the Republic, which I am sure is inevitable, is for the SCOTUS to deem this a political question and use that as an excuse to allow Dennison to continue flout the law.

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  37. michael reynolds says:

    As we learned during Bush v. Gore, the SCOTUS has a special, extra-legal, never-to-be-used except in case of political need carve-out to the Constitution. They’ll vote party lines. There is no way the Republican members of the court will come to a decision that threatens their president.

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  38. SKI says:

    @michael reynolds: Maybe I’m hopelessly naive but I don’t see them issuing a decision stating that Congressional oversight of the Executive Branch isn’t a legitimate purpose of Congress – particularly when the result won’t have a direct impact on the WH.

    Put a more cynical way, I don’t see them seeing this as a “political need” to save the GOP.

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  39. James Pearce says:

    So what legislation is Congress going to introduce, or consider introducing, based on Trump’s tax returns? That’s where the Trump administration thinks it has a case to make.

    The Dems should be honest and just admit they want to mine Trump’s tax records for embarrassing and politically damaging information.

    Is anyone really buying that there is some kind of high-minded principle at work here?

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  40. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    1. Since we haven’t seen the DoJ’s legal memo on this issue yet I am not prepared to judge the legal merits of either side’s argument.

    2. Again, we’ll see what the courts have to say about this.

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  41. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Paul L.:

    True the Vote case is still in court.

    LOL, True the Vote. I ran the voter registration campaign that ‘created’ True the Vote. Texas GOPers were so unhappy we were registering brown people, they hastily created a sham organization to combat us, didn’t follow protocol for properly registering their nonprofit, and were flagged for follow up, because duh. (And despite their best attempts to end our campaign, including shooting out our windows, stalking all of our staff, and fraudulently raiding our offices, we still managed to run the nation’s largest and most efficient municipal voter registration campaign in history. But we did end up only registering 70,000 or so new voters, instead of our goal of 100,000.)

    And as far as I can tell, the Trump Justice Department settled with True the Vote two years ago. The terms of that settlement? A sincere apology that their tax-exempt status was momentarily delayed. While True the Vote has stated their case is still open, and that they were ‘deceived’ in their settlement (again, by the Trump administration), the government sure seems to think the case is closed.

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  42. SKI says:

    @James Pearce:

    The Dems should be honest and just admit they want to mine Trump’s tax records for embarrassing and politically damaging information.

    Is anyone really buying that there is some kind of high-minded principle at work here?

    Yes. I buy that Congressional Oversight on issues like Emoluments, Conflict of Interest, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, and Obstruction of Justice is appropriate and that those issues are more than “embarrassing and politically damaging information” but serious issues that may lead to impeachment.

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  43. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Yes, the high-minded principle is this thing called the law. Trump has been caught once laundering money – his casino fessed up and paid a hefty fine. We have very strong reporting that Trump is a tax evader. We know he ran a fraudulent charity. We know he had a very large infusion of Russian cash that saved his financial ass. We know that he has lied on financial disclosures.

    Those things are called crimes and we have laws. Or do we just suspend all that when dealing with the rich?

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  44. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: First, I’ll have to note that I can see, at least on the surface, that Mnuchin’s/Trump’s/DOJ’s objection seems legitimate and that this belief condemns me as one of the lying, evil, Trumpaloons who want to destroy America and convert it to a Russian satrapy. Still, it would seem to me that the objection might be addressed by the need to see Trump’s tax returns to gauge more clearly the issue of whether emoluments are a real issue within this administration (well doh) and whether legislation is necessary/desirable to …ahem… *clarify for future administrations* what acts/practices constitute emoluments and codify the same.

    I realize that the drama of all the current rigmarole is useful in distracting the masses on both sides, but wouldn’t it just be more efficient to simply show a legitimate reason (and yes, to me the current one looks more like another Salem Trial, but I’ve already identified as evil for this issue) for the request and let the administration explain why they don’t want to make the laws better?

    Or has that reason already been rebuffed and if so why? (I haven’t really followed this very closely. In fairness, I didn’t follow *Benghazi!!!!!!!!!!!!* either.)

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  45. drj says:

    @Paul L.:

    President Obama said, that “[m]ore than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States

    So now the story is that Obama went behind Holder’s back, through some White House-ATF liaison guy, to supply guns to Mexican crime cartels in order to bolster a Democratic talking point?

    My dude…

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  46. James Pearce says:

    @SKI: “Congressional oversight” is doing a lot of work there…

    It’s okay if Democrats play politics. Tens of millions of people elected them to do just that.

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  47. @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I largely agree with you that the emoluments issue, as well as the financial issues being investigated by the US Attorney in Manhattan and the New York Attorney General are far more relevant and illuminating.

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  48. Paul L. says:

    @drj:
    Of Course not. Holder was Obama’s wingman and completely in on the plan.
    That is why they invoked Executive Privilege.

    they hastily created a sham organization to combat us, didn’t follow protocol for properly registering their nonprofit, and were flagged for follow up

    Someone is bitter than this “sham organization” is still around and has non-profit status despite the best efforts of IRS Democrat loyalists and Elijah Cummings.
    I am interested on see the evidence that True the Vote did not follow protocol for properly registering their nonprofit. Or is this evidence on one of Lois Lerner’s missing/destroyed hard drives?
    Sad to hear that True the Vote was forced to settle.

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  49. On a related note, California is the latest state to consider a law that would require candidates to release tax returns as a price for appearing on the state’s ballot. As I note in the linked post, it is not at all clear that this is permitted under the Constitution.

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  50. Steve V says:

    @drj: You have no idea how crafty Obama is … in 2016 he made up a whole Russian election hoax so that the Deep State could engineer a coup after Trump was elected.

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  51. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    1. Since we haven’t seen the DoJ’s legal memo on this issue yet I am not prepared to judge the legal merits of either side’s argument.

    Yes, let’s wait for Baghdad Barr’s opinion. LOL.

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  52. drj says:

    @Paul L.:

    I know this is hopeless, but stil.

    Of Course not. Holder was Obama’s wingman and completely in on the plan.

    So without the ca. 2,000 guns that the ATF allowed to be shipped to Mexico over several years it wouldn’t be the case that “[m]ore than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States?”

    In other words, Obama, Holder and a bunch of rogue ATF agents set up an entire illegal operation in order to be able to claim a 90+ percentage of US guns in Mexico rather than, let’s say, a 80+ percentage?

    I bet they did it from a secret cave below a DC pizza parlor, no? (Which is of course why the DoJ IG couldn’t find any evidence of Holder’s prior knowledge.)

    You’re laughable.

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  53. dennis says:

    @wr:

    plenty of truly evil men will die rich and contented and never even remotely “got.”

    True. “Plenty” do get away with their heinous shyt. But not this guy. It’s coming for him. You know why? Because he wasn’t self-aware enough to keep himself away from this type/amount of scrutiny, too narcissistic to foresee he wouldn’t escape it, and too stupid to play it like a true playa. As it stands, if it weren’t for all the sycophantic, lickspittle Republicans holding his hand through it all, his azz would’ve been “got” months ago.

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  54. dennis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    On a related note, California is the latest state to consider a law that would require candidates to release tax returns as a price for appearing on the state’s ballot. As I note in the linked post, it is not at all clear that this is permitted under the Constitution.

    Agreed, Doug. This has the effect of disenfranchising millions of voters of their preferred and legitimate candidate. We should leave the voter disenfranchisement game to the GOP, which does it best.

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  55. MarkedMan says:

    @dennis: I couldn’t disagree more. This applies equally to everyone.

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  56. Paul L. says:

    @drj:

    without the ca. 2,000 guns that the ATF allowed to be shipped to Mexico over several years

    Operation Fast and Furious was between 2009–2011 about 2 years.
    More guns could have been ran to Mexico if the mastermind of the operation ATF Agent John Dodson had not betrayed his brothers in law enforcement to dishonorably save his own skin.
    The GOP let Dodson cover that story up by suing Time magazine.

    The DoJ IG did find evidence of Holder’s prior knowledge. But Holder claimed he did not read those memos.

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  57. drj says:

    @Paul L.:

    From your link:

    The Mexican government has estimated that 2,000 weapons are smuggled daily from the U.S. into Mexico.

    Another 2,000 guns over two years were going to make all the difference for Obama’s talking point for sure.

    You are a funny man.

    ETA:

    From the DoJ IG’s report (p. 299):

    We found no evidence that Department or ATF staff informed Holder about Operation Fast and Furious prior to 2011.

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  58. Steve V says:

    @drj: “Complete exoneration,” ha.

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  59. Kathy says:

    In the rather disappointing novel “Childhood’s End,” the aliens who take over Earth (no spoilers), the Overlords, refuse to allow humans to see them. This generates a lot of speculation about what they look like.

    One theory is they’re hiding the fact they have nothing to hide. That is, they look just like human beings. But where people won’t be intimidated by other people, they will be by a mysterious presence they can hear issuing orders but is never seen.

    So, what if Dennison is hiding the fact he’s got nothing to hide?

    That is, maybe his tax returns show nothing damaging, no much smaller fortune, no cheating, no suspicious partners, etc. But by keeping them hidden he drives other people nuts wondering what he’s hiding, and makes various committees in the House waste time and effort.

    I doubt this is so. Subtlety is not only not in his vocabulary, it seems to have been surgically removed from his person altogether.

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  60. gVOR08 says:

    I preordered a book because of a post at LGM, The Nonsense Factory.

    I became convinced that law was intolerably dysfunctional as soon as I became a client myself, which is an experience that most lawyers don’t really get. As a client, you want straight answers to basic questions. What permits do I need to get for this remodel? When does this form have to be submitted to the SEC? Is this part-timer an employee or an independent contractor? These are simple questions and the legal system should provide clear answers. It doesn’t. From a lawyer’s perspective, this isn’t very frustrating — it’s literally not the lawyer’s problem. But from the client’s perspective — which is really the citizen’s perspective — this is totally unacceptable. So I wanted to know why law couldn’t answer any question worth asking. And I thought the results might be interesting to anyone who felt like throwing their phone across the room after talking to their lawyer, or dealing with a Social Security administrator, or looking up a building code, or figuring out a tax deduction. Which, I think, is most everyone.

    This is why there is a legal issue over this tax return request, despite the clear text of the statute. There’s a legal issue with everything. Or at least if you can pay enough lawyer, there can be an issue.

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  61. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yes, the high-minded principle is this thing called the law.

    Which law? 26 USC, Section 6103? Or some other law?

    Did you even read Mnunchin’s letter? If it were a bit on John Oliver’s HBO show, everyone would be saying it “destroyed” the Democrats.

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  62. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Thank you. But I have to admit that I can see the political value in giving the rubes a big juicy hunk of red meat instead of doing something that might work to bring more honesty and transparency to our government and the people running it.

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  63. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @Steve V: So you’re telling us that the real problem is not that Trump is inept, but rather that Deep State is? Not encouraging. Not. At. All.

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  64. gVOR08 says:

    @Steve V:

    You have no idea how crafty Obama is … in 2016 he made up a whole Russian election hoax so that the Deep State could engineer a coup after Trump was elected.

    It’s not that crafty if he still has the time machine he used to place birth announcements in the Honolulu papers.

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  65. Robert in SF says:

    @Kathy: I am glad I read the comments, because I searched for “briar patch” and not having found anything, I believed I had an original thought…but alas it is not to be…

    I do wonder if President Trump has mastered the “don’t throw me in the briar patch” approach of making a big deal about objecting to something that won’t actually be bad for him…so he misdirects by drawing attention to the thing he actually doesn’t care if you see.

    I wonder if that’s a negotiation strategy he picked up. Demand something you don’t care about, that seems crazy to ask for and expect, and then waste all your opposition’s focus and energy on something you don’t actually care about….

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  66. reid says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The courts will need to resolve this only because the executive branch is dismissing the request from Congress. I’m with others here that there is plenty of basis for the request and not much legal room for ignoring it, but if they do ignore it, what else can be done?

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