If Democrats want to see President Trump's tax returns, they might have to go through the courts. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin set up a potential legal battle Wednesday by telling House Democrats the department wouldn't meet that day's deadline for handing over six years of the president's tax returns, NBC reports. Mnuchin told Rep. Richard Neal, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, that the request Neal filed last week "raises serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of congressional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose, and the constitutional rights of American citizens." Mnuchin didn't rule out complying with the request, but said the department was continuing to review it amid concerns about "abuse of authority."
Neal filed the request under a 1924 law that says the IRS, which is part of the Treasury Department, "shall furnish" tax records to the chairmen of congressional tax committees, the Guardian reports. "How many lawyers and how much time does it take for Secretary Mnuchin to understand that 'shall' means 'shall'?" Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett asked after lawmakers received the secretary's letter. Daniel Hemel, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, tells the Washington Post that Democrats could file a lawsuit in federal court if the administration refuses to grant the request. "I think it’s likely to go to the DC circuit, but does the Supreme Court want to get into this?" he says. "That’s really hard to predict." Mnuchin said in testimony this week that the department's attorneys had held "informational" talks with White House lawyers about the request. (Read more Trump tax return stories.)