U.S. House Democrat says current Congress may not see Trump taxes

The Justice Department released a legal opinion Friday saying that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was right to withhold President Trump's tax returns from a House committee that subpoenaed them.

"The Chairman's request that Treasury turn over the President's tax returns, for the apparent objective of making them public, amounted to an unprecedented use of the Committee's authority and raised a serious risk of abuse", the opinion said.

Mr. Neal, in requesting six years of returns from Mr. Trump and some of his core business and charitable entities, said he wanted to review whether the IRS was living up to its internal guidance that requires the president be audited each year.

"The Chairman's request that Treasury turn over the President's tax returns, for the apparent objective of making them public, amounted to an unprecedented use of the Committee's authority and raised a serious risk of abuse", Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Engel wrote in a 33-page memo dated Thursday.

In May, Mnuchin defied requests made by the House Ways and Means Committee and refused to comply with a subpoena, setting up a legal battle between the two branches of government. The request was politically motivated to its core with the sole objective of this fishing expedition being to embarrass the president of the United States.

But the agency concluded that Congress can't give itself the right to compel information that does not serve a legitimate legislative objective, and that Neal's request was "pretextual". "In view of these marked discrepancies in the public record, Treasury, quite reasonably, concluded that Chairman Neal had not articulated the real reason for his request".

Trump is the first president in more than four decades to refuse to make his tax returns public.

The Democrats had hoped a almost 100-year-old tax code provision requiring the Treasury to furnish tax returns upon request by Congress would get them the documents.

Neal's subpoena covered six years of the president's personal tax returns and six years of returns from eight of the companies that he owns.

"We concluded that the secretary reasonably and correctly found that the committee lacked a legitimate goal for seeking six years of the president's tax information", he wrote. "Treasury thus had the responsibility to confirm for itself that the Chairman's request serves a legitimate legislative end".

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