President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday that he would not authorize the release of his tax returns after Democrats in the House sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service, requesting the president's records.
"Not gonna do it while I'm under audit," Trump said at the White House Wednesday morning before he departed for a trip to Texas. "There is no law, as you know, I got elected last time with the same issue and while I'm under audit, I won't do it. If I'm not under audit, I would do it, I have no problem with it, but while I'm under audit, I would not give my taxes."
At issue is a 1920s-era law known as Section 6103 which allows three people on Capitol Hill - the Senate Finance Committee chairman, the head of the Joint Committee on Taxation and the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee - to request any individual's tax information for "legislative purposes."
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), set a Wednesday deadline for IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to provide six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns by Wednesday. A refusal by the agency would likely trigger a court battle between the White House and Congress.
The law was written in response to the Teapot Dome Scandal, a bribery scandal that enveloped President Warren G. Harding's administration from 1921 to 1923. The law gives subpoena power to those three individuals in Congress to review tax records without regard to elected or appointed position.
In a letter sent to the IRS last week, Trump's lawyer William Consovoy, objected to Neal's request arguing that the president's tax returns should be protected by privacy.
"This request is a transparent effort by one political party to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech," Consovoy wrote.
At a hearing Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he would "comply with the law" but did not confirm what the Treasury Department would do next.
"I just want to be very clear. ... I have said that I will comply with the law. I have not made a comment one way or another whether we would supply the tax returns. I want to be very clear on that. We have said we will comply with the law."
Trump has repeatedly asserted that he will not release his tax returns while under audit. Past presidents, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both released their returns during their time in office.
"I built a great company, one of the best companies, I have some of the greatest assets in the world, I did a good job, and now, frankly, I don't care about them, I only care about the United States," Trump said Wednesday. "But I have no obligation to do that while I'm under audit. And no lawyer would tell you to release your tax returns while you're under audit."
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