In a widely expected move, Mnuchin rejected a demand for the documents from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, saying the panel lacks “a legitimate legislative purpose” for obtaining the tax records that Democrats view as critical to their efforts to investigate Trump and his presidency.
“We are unable to provide the requested information in response to the committee’s subpoena,” Mnuchin said in a letter to Neal, released ahead of a 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) deadline for delivering the documents.
Neal later issued a statement, saying he was “consulting with counsel on how best to enforce the subpoenas moving forward.”
Hours earlier, the Democratic chairman had said he was inclined to turn to federal court to obtain Trump’s tax returns, if the administration missed the deadline. “We will likely proceed to court as quickly as next week,” Neal had told reporters.
Asked whether he would also pursue contempt charges against administration officials, Neal told reporters: “I don’t see that right now as an option. I think that the better option for us is to proceed with a court case.”
Trump’s refusal to cooperate in numerous congressional probes of him, his family and his presidency is forcing Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, to look to the courts to enforce their oversight powers under the U.S. Constitution.
The likely decision to avoid contempt proceedings disappointed some Democrats on Neal’s tax panel.
“This is a way for some congressmen to go south on the issue: leave it to the courts. It really absents us from our responsibilities,” said Representative Bill Pascrell, who helped lead the push to obtain Trump’s tax returns.