A whistleblower recently made “credible allegations” to the Ways and Means Committee of potentially wrongful interference with the IRS’ presidential audit process, lawyers for the House told a federal court Tuesday.
The disclosure was included in a motion by House Democrats asking Judge Trevor McFadden to summarily order the Treasury Department to turn over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.). Part of the Democrats’ argument in the case is that they need Trump’s returns to review the effectiveness of the IRS’ routine audits of every president.
The motion included an Aug. 8 letter by Neal to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying that Ways and Means received an “unsolicited communication” on July 29 “from a Federal employee setting forth credible allegations of ‘evidence of possible misconduct’ — specifically, potential ‘inappropriate efforts to influence’ the mandatory audit program.”
He asked Mnuchin to provide documents and communications “of specified Treasury and IRS employees” regarding the matter.
Mnuchin, in an Aug. 13 response that was also included in the Democrats’ court filing Tuesday, said Treasury didn't have any pertinent records to provide and suggested Neal take his concerns to the IRS’ inspector general.
The allegations of interference in the audit process are a new twist in Neal’s effort to obtain six years’ worth of Trump’s personal returns, along with six years of some of his business returns. In July, Neal filed a federal lawsuit to enforce a subpoena for the returns.
In Tuesday’s filing, House Counsel Doug Letter asked for summary judgment in favor of all claims in Democrats' complaint, saying “there are no genuine issues of material fact.” The filing included documents that again lay out the Democrats’ arguments for obtaining Trump’s returns, under a law that allows Neal to request them from Treasury.
“The Committee needs the requested information to evaluate the integrity of the IRS’s existing program for auditing Presidents’ tax returns — a need only heightened by the Committee’s receipt of whistleblower allegations about improper influence in that program,” the House attorneys said in a document filed with the motion Tuesday.
Attorneys for Trump, in a filing of their own Tuesday, asked McFadden to delay any decision on the Democrats' request, saying significant legal issues still need to be settled.
"All told, it took the Committee 180 days to bring this suit (and still another 49 days after that before moving for summary judgment), with little to no explanation for its leisurely pace," the attorneys said. "The Committee’s purported desire to consider legislation regarding the Presidential audit process does not require that the Court suddenly bring these proceedings to a gallop."
The Trump administration argues that Neal needs a legitimate legislative reason for seeking the documents and that he has none. His real motivation, Trump’s attorneys say, is to politically embarrass the president.
A Neal aide declined to comment on the whistleblower charge, but a footnote in Tuesday’s filing said the committee is prepared to offer the court confidential material on the undue influence allegation.
Trump is separately suing Neal and New York officials to keep Neal from using a new state law to obtain the president's state tax returns.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the judge presiding in this case. The judge is Trevor McFadden.