WASHINGTON – The House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit Tuesday in an effort to obtain President Donald Trump's tax returns, setting up a legal showdown between Congress and the executive branch.
The committee said it has the legal authority to obtain the tax returns, an argument the Trump administration rejected. According to the lawsuit, the Trump administration's refusal to supply the tax returns is in violation of the committee's subpoena power.
The committee asked federal courts to intervene and compel the Trump administration to hand over the returns. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig are named as defendants, along with their respective agencies.
"Despite its mandatory obligation, the Treasury Department failed to comply with the law and denied the Committee’s request. The Administration also refused to comply with the subpoenas I subsequently issued in an effort to obtain the materials," Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in a news release. "Due to that noncompliance, the Committee is now pursuing this matter in the federal courts.”
Mnuchin said the Treasury Department is not required to give Congress the tax returns. Trump has insisted since the 2016 presidential campaign that he cannot furnish his tax returns because he is under audit.
At the beginning of April, House Democrats made a formal request to the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department for the returns. The Trump administration rejected the request. In mid-May, the Ways and Means Committee issued a subpoena to obtain the tax returns, and the administration refused to comply.
Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the lead Republican on the committee, said, "This not only weaponizes the tax code and puts every taxpayer at risk, this lawsuit goes further and – for the first time – circumvents America’s democratic process by replacing the U.S. House’s voice with Nancy Pelosi’s voice."
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., who sits on the committee, said in a news release that "litigation is always a last resort," but "the Ways and Means Committee must file this action to stand for rule of law."
"The judiciary has been a bulwark against Trump’s steaming corruption and roughshod lawlessness," Pascrell said. "The law is as clear as fine crystal. I have no doubt our lower courts will side with Congress. We have been pursuing transparency of this man for a long time, and we won’t stop until we provide it for our country."
Contributing: William Cummings
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: House Democrats sue Trump administration to get tax returns