Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Democrats appear to be headed for a high-stakes showdown. Democrats on the House Ways & Means Committee demanded six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns on Monday buy Mnuchin just let them know that he has no intention of caving to their demands.
The Committee contends it has the authority to review the President’s tax returns but Mnuchin disagrees, saying in a letter:
In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and pursuant to section 6103, the Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.
The request for those returns was made to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig last month. Mnuchin set his own deadline for May 6, in order to review if the Committee had the right to make such a request.
Democrats on the Ways & Means Committee responded angrily, claiming they have complete authority to demand the returns from both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Up to this point, each request has been voluntary meaning the Committee must now obtain a subpoena. That action is likely to lead The White House refusing to comply and the Democrats turning to the courts for a decision.
Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney said Democrats will “never” have their way in the matter.
Republicans on the Ways & Means Committee, say Democrat’s, who have the majority on the committee, demand to expose President Trump’s tax returns is a blatant abuse of power.
For the last two years, Republicans have remained steady in their assertion that obtaining Trump’s tax returns is both unnecessary and sets a dangerous precedent.
Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana said this past February that forcing the Treasury Secretary to bow to Democrats’ demands would effectively allow them to weaponize “our tax laws to target a political foe.”
GOP Reps. Kevin Brady and Mike Kelly followed up by imploring Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D) to put an end to his party’s attempt to force the matter. They said in a letter, “When we start making exceptions for one taxpayer, it begins the process of eroding and threatening the privacy rights of all taxpayers. This is a risk we cannot and should not take.”
Confrontations between Presidents and legislators over congressional oversight are not new. Most of them usually end up with reconciliation or if nothing else a strained truce.
This dispute between President Trump and House Democrats is a different matter. The differences here are so heated and wide-ranging, a peaceful resolution doesn’t seem likely.
Christopher Armstrong, a former general counsel to the Senate Finance Committee observed, “This feels different – it feels less like stage-setting for negotiation and more like ‘I’m going to punch you in the face and take your lunch money,’” He added, “And both sides want the other guy’s lunch money.”
Settlement without confrontation has been the traditional way for the two sides to settle matters but there is nothing traditional about this current battle of wills.
Voters who elected Trump weren’t looking for traditional. It may have taken longer than some expected but the President is living up to his promise to take the fight to the swamp.
With this and other actions by House Democrats, Trump has dug in his heels resistance against what he calls, “presidential harassment.”
Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University said, “We are in a different environment right now where the two sides dig in, don’t negotiate very effectively and end up playing zero-sum politics.”
Democrats have been demanding Trump open up his financial records since before the election so the question comes, “Why now?”
There are two reasons, one that is obvious and another that should be.
Democrats have not been in control of the House for years and now that they are, they are using their newfound power to its fullest. At present, there are at least six separate committee investigations underway allowing the ever-growing field of Democrat presidential hopefuls free time before the cameras.
The other reason is their not-so-quiet desperation.
First, Trump had no chance of becoming the Republicans’ nominee, but he did. Then, he had no chance of becoming President, but now he is. With the economy booming and his approval ratings holding strong, Donald Trump is not afraid of a fight.
He never was.