Democrats cannot legally request President Donald Trump’s tax returns, said an outside lawyer for the President, adding that an opinion by the Justice Department was needed first before the IRS released the information to House Democrats.
“Caution and deliberation are essential to ensure that the Treasury Department does not erode the constitutional separation of powers or the Tax Code’s ‘core purpose of protecting taxpayer privacy,’ … — protections that safeguard not just the President, but all Americans,” said a lawyer, William Consovoy, in a letter to the Treasury Department’s general counsel.
The President refused to comment on the letter, but reiterated his previous claim that he was under audit and could not release his tax returns as a result.
“Nothing whatsoever. Nothing whatsoever. I have nothing to say about it. I got elected. They elected me, now they keep going. I’m under audit. When you’re under audit, you don’t do it,” Trump told reporters during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump has also signaled that he would not be willing to release his tax records to Congress.
On Wednesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal requested six years worth of Trump’s personal tax returns in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. He made the request based on a provision of the federal tax code that allows chairmen of Congress’s tax committees to receive tax returns provided they are viewed in a closed session.
Consovoy disagreed, arguing that the committee “has no power to conduct its own examination of individual taxpayers.”
“Enforcement of our nation’s tax laws is entrusted to the IRS — an arm of the Executive Branch,” he added.
The lawyer further questioned why Neal didn’t ask for information about previous president’s tax returns and why he is “seeking tax returns and return information covering the four years before President Trump took office” if he only wanted to “review how the IRS audits presidents.”