Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has made it official: The administration won't be turning President Trump's tax returns over to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Mnuchin told Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal in a Monday letter that the panel's request "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose," the AP reports. Mnuchin said he relied on the advice of the Justice Department. He concluded that the department is "not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information." The move is sure to set in motion a legal battle over the returns. The chief options available to Democrats now are to subpoena the Internal Revenue Service for the returns or to file a lawsuit.
Neal had demanded access to Trump's tax returns under a law that says the IRS "shall furnish" the returns of any taxpayer to a handful of top lawmakers. Trump has told those close to him that the attempt to get his returns was an invasion of his privacy and a further example of what he calls the Democrat-led "witch hunt" — like special counsel Robert Mueller's probe — meant to damage him. Trump has long said he was under audit and therefore could not release his taxes. But in recent weeks, he has added to the argument, telling advisers that the American people elected him once without seeing his taxes and would do so again, according to the three White House officials and Republicans, who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. (A $5 million reward for Trump's tax returns didn't work, either.)