A draft Internal Revenue Service memo obtained by the Washington Post directly undercuts Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's rationale for refusing to give President Trump's tax returns to House lawmakers—and may expose a rift in the IRS over the issue. The legal memo prepared last fall states that providing tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee "is mandatory, requiring the Secretary to disclose returns, and return information, requested by the tax-writing Chairs." Mnuchin says he is withholding the returns because the request "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose," though the memo says his obligation to provide returns would not be affected by a failure to "state a reason for the request."
The memo says that the only way the returns could be withheld is if the president invokes executive privilege, which Trump hasn't done. "The memo writer's interpretation is that the IRS has no wiggle room on this," says University of Chicago Law School professor Daniel Hemel, who suspects there is a split between career staffers and political appointees at the IRS. An IRS spokesman says the memo is a "draft background paper" that never became official agency policy, the New York Times reports. Insiders say discussions of the issue at the Treasury Department have been overshadowed by the fact that Trump has already decided that the returns will not be released. ”The decision has been made," a source tells the Post. "Now it's up to us to try to justify it." (Read more Trump tax return stories.)