In a move that will surprise exactly nobody, President Trump said on Wednesday that he won’t release his tax returns while he’s under audit, setting up a legal standoff between the White House, the Treasury Department and House Democrats.
"I would love to give them, but I’m not going to do it while I’m under audit," Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for a trip to Texas. "As you know, I got elected last time with the same issue, and while I’m under audit, I won’t do it. If I’m not under audit, I would do it. I have no problem with it, but while I’m under audit, I would not give my taxes."
As the Hill notes, Trump repeated the argument of his allies, who have pushed back against the Democratic request, suggesting the issue was litigated during the 2016 election and "frankly, the people don’t care."
Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee had set a Wednesday deadline for the Treasury Department to turn over six years worth of Trump’s personal and business tax returns, culminating with a 4 hour grilling of Steven Mnuchin by Maxine Waters on Tuesday. However, Mnuchin gave no indication that the Treasury will meet that deadline, and Trump has insisted he will not voluntarily give up his returns. He has cited an ongoing audit, the same reason he gave when he broke with years of precedent and declined to release his returns during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mnuchin said he personally had not spoken to Trump over the tax returns.
“I think it would be premature at this point to make any specific comments other than, as I’ve been consistent before in saying, it is being reviewed by the legal departments, and we look forward to responding to the letter,” Mnuchin said at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
Meanwhile, the IRS has said that audits don’t prevent individuals from releasing their own tax information.
For years, Democrats have pressed for the president's returns, arguing they could reveal conflicts of interest or potential legal issues with the president's finances. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are trying to use a provision in the federal tax code that gives the chairmen of Congress’s tax committees the power to ask for any tax returns and return information.
The statute says that the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” the documents, as long as they are reviewed in a closed session. But it’s unclear if or when the IRS will provide House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) with the documents.
Republicans have scoffed at the effort, painting it as a play by Democrats to attack the president and raising concerns it could set a bad precedent for taxpayer privacy rights.