If there was ever any question about whether Donald Trump would abuse his power to stymie release of his tax returns, that was put to rest Tuesday by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Testifying before two congressional committees, Mnuchin admitted that agency lawyers had spoken with White House lawyers even before Treasury received House Democrats’ request for six years of Trump’s taxes.
“Our legal department has had conversations prior to receiving the letter with the White House general counsel,” Mnuchin said. “I acknowledge there were conversations. I am not briefed on the full extent of those conversations.”
If Mnuchin wasn’t briefed, he sure parroted the party line given by White House officials regarding release of Trump’s taxes. Chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News Sunday that Democrats would “never” get Trump’s tax returns. “That’s an issue that was already litigated during the election,” he argued.
Sure sounds similar to what Mnuchin told lawmakers Tuesday. After saying his department intended “to follow the law,” he added, “The general public when they elected President Trump made the decision to elect him without his tax returns being released.”
Whatever was or wasn’t litigated in 2016 (not to mention 2018) should be none of Mnuchin’s concern. The 1924 law is pretty damn simple. It stipulates that when the Ways and Means Committee chair makes a written request to Treasury, “the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified” in the request.
Actually, GOP lawmakers know the statute well—they used it repeatedly during the Obama administration when they were trying to make the case that the Treasury Department had denied conservative groups tax-exempt status for political reasons. Once Ways and Means Republicans had the taxes of several dozen political groups, they used their power to vote to make all the information public. Ultimately, it was revealed that Treasury had targeted both right and left political groups.
But now Trump wants to shut it all down when it comes to his own tax returns. Can’t imagine what he’s trying to hide, but Mnuchin sure seems inclined to help him hide it.