Democrats will need a solid reason to get Trump’s tax returns. It’s a good thing they have one

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has grave constitutional concerns about the House Ways and Means Committee’s request for Donald Trump’s recent tax returns. “The Committee’s request 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 said—as if the Trump administration really cares about the constitutional rights of American citizens not named Donald Trump.

The law under which Rep. Richard Neal, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, requested Trump’s taxes simply says the IRS “shall furnish” tax information upon request from certain congressional committees. But the courts have made clear over the years that Congress needs a reason: “There is no general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of the Congress,” the Supreme Court ruled in 1957.

Neal did provide a reason in his request to the IRS: “The committee is considering legislative proposals and conducting oversight related to our federal tax law, including, but not limited to, the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the federal tax laws against a president.” The question, it seems, will be whether the Trump-packed courts will protect him and his administration from that oversight.

 

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