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House Democrats file lawsuit to obtain Trump tax returns

Posted at 11:51 AM, Jul 02, 2019

The Democrat-led House Ways and Means Committee is suing the Treasury Department, the IRS and their respective leaders, Steve Mnuchin and Charles Rettig, according to the federal court in Washington.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal is seeking the President's tax returns using a little-known IRS provision known as 6103, which allows the Chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to request and obtain an individual's tax information for a legitimate legislative purpose.

The move comes months after Neal made his initial request for the President's tax information and as outside groups and other liberals on the Ways and Means Committee grew impatient with the pace of Neal's efforts. Neal initially made his request for Trump's tax returns on April 3. After a series of follow-up letters, the Treasury Department formally denied the request at the beginning of May, and Neal issued subpoenas to the IRS and Treasury Department on May 10.

Democrats had argued that under 6103 authority, Neal did not need to issue a subpoena, but internal deliberations with House Counsel got Neal to the point where the advice was that a subpoena could bolster the case in court. The Democrats on Neal's committee have argued that they need access to the President's tax returns in order to understand how the IRS administers the presidential audit program. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department has argued it is not a legitimate legislative purpose.

The lawsuit piles onto several other court fights involving other committees and members of Congress seeking Trump financial records.

In two other court cases, Trump has tried to stop the House Oversight Committee, the House Intelligence Committee and the House Financial Services Committee from getting his financial records from Capital One bank, Deutsche Bank and the accounting firm Mazars USA.

So far, trial-level judges have sided firmly with Congress, saying the committees have broad authority to pursue investigations with subpoenas like these. Trump is appealing both court decisions, and the cases aren't likely to be resolved until at least next month.

"There can be no doubt as to the power of Congress, by itself or through its committees, to investigate matters," federal Judge Edgardo Ramos said at a court hearing in May. "Without the power to investigate ... Congress could be seriously handicapped in its efforts to exercise its constitutional function wisely and effectively."