- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 7, 2019

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday said Democrats will “never” see President Trump’s tax returns, as the White House and Capitol Hill leaders dig in for a protracted battle that could wind up in the federal courts.

“Never — nor should they,” Mr. Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s an issue that was already litigated during the election.”

He said Democrats know they’re not going to win the fight, but that they want to divert attention because they don’t want to negotiate on policy.

“The Democrats are demanding that the IRS turn over the documents, and that is not going to happen and they know it,” Mr. Mulvaney said.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal sent a request to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig last week requesting six years of individual tax returns from the president, as well as tax returns for some of Mr. Trump’s associated entities, like a revocable trust.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who as the House’s top tax writer is allowed under an obscure provision in the law to make the request, said he wants to examine the IRS policy of auditing the tax returns of sitting presidents.

Democrats say it’s a legitimate line of inquiry.

“The public has a right to know whether their president’s interests are impacting the decisions that he makes using the authority that we have granted him by electing him as president,” Rep. Dan Kildee, Michigan Democrat, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “No lawyer for the president should interfere or direct the IRS or the Treasury Department to ignore the law.”

But Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s lawyers, questioned on ABC whether there is indeed a legitimate legislative purpose to the request.

“This idea that you can use the IRS as a political weapon, which is what is happening here, is incorrect both as a matter of statutory law and constitutionally,” Mr. Sekulow said. “We should not be in a situation where individual private tax returns are used for political purposes.”

Mr. Trump has said recently he’s not inclined to comply with the request, citing an ongoing audit.

“I’m under audit. When you’re under audit, you don’t do it,” he said.

Mr. Trump broke with decades of precedent during the 2016 campaign by not releasing any of his tax returns, citing an audit. After the election, he said the American people didn’t care about the returns and noted that he won.

Sen. Mitt Romney on Sunday said Mr. Trump should release the returns, but that Democratic efforts to secure them through legislation are “moronic.”

“That’s not going to happen,” the Utah Republican said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The courts are not going to say that you can compel a person running for office to release their tax returns.”

In addition to Mr. Neal’s request, House Democrats also included a provision in ethics legislation they passed last month that would require presidents and presidential nominees to release a decade’s worth of tax returns.

The issue will undoubtedly come to a head this week, after Mr. Neal gave Mr. Rettig an April 10 deadline to give him the requested information.

Mr. Rettig and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin are also scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill this week to testify about Mr. Trump’s 2020 budget request, though lawmakers will inevitably grill them on the tax returns issue as well.

The IRS should not divulge the information until it gets a formal legal opinion from the Justice Department, said William S. Consovoy, an attorney for the president.

The Ways and Means Committee doesn’t have a “legitimate committee purpose” for requesting the returns and even if it did, that’s not what is motivating Mr. Neal’s request, Mr. Consovoy wrote in a letter last week to Brent McIntosh, general counsel for the Treasury Department.

“His request is a transparent effort by one political party to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech,” Mr. Consovoy wrote.

Mr. Neal says that’s not the case.

“This is about the institution of the presidency,” he said.

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