Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney vowed Sunday that congressional Democrats will "never" see President Donald Trump's tax returns and characterized their attempts to obtain copies of the returns as a "political stunt."
Last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., asked the IRS to hand over six years of Trump’s tax returns by April 10. Neal cited his authority to request the returns under a law that says the Treasury Department "shall furnish" the committee with "any return or return information" upon request.
Mulvaney said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday" that Democrats "knew they're not going to get these taxes" and that "one of the fundamental principles of the IRS is to protect the confidentiality of you and me and everybody else who files taxes."
Democrats "know the terms under law by which the IRS can give them the documents, but political hit job is not one of those reasons," Mulvaney said.
When asked if he thought Democrats would ever see Trump's tax returns, Mulvaney said, "Oh, no, never. Nor should they."
He said the push for Trump's taxes was driven by hatred of the president, which he called "Trump derangement syndrome."
"If they don't get what they want on the Mueller report, they're going to ask for the taxes. If they don't get what they want on the taxes, they'll ask for something else," Mulvaney said. He said the issue of Trump's tax returns "was already litigated during the election."
"Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns, they knew that he didn't and they elected him anyway, which is, of course, what drives the Democrats crazy," Mulvaney said.
During the campaign, Trump said that he couldn't release his tax returns because he was under audit and that he would release them once the audit was complete. He has repeated that position since taking office. Friday, during his visit to the U.S.-Mexican border, Trump said, "I’m under audit. When you’re under audit, you don’t do it."
IRS officials have said taxpayers under audit are free to release their returns.
In his statement announcing the request for Trump's returns, Neal said one of the committee's main motivations was making sure that the "audits are conducted fully and appropriately" and that "the IRS is carrying out its responsibilities."
"This request is about policy, not politics," Neal said, and was "in no way based on emotion of the moment or partisanship."
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that the request lacks a required "legitimate legislative purpose" and accused Democrats of trying to "use the IRS as a political weapon."
Friday, attorneys for Trump sent a letter to the Treasury Department's general counsel stressing the importance of protecting taxpayer's privacy and arguing that handing over the returns would "set a dangerous precedent."
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Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, disputed that argument in an interview Sunday.
"It’s certainly not a Pandora’s box," Kildee said on ABC's "This Week." He said Congress exercised its "legitimate authority" to conduct oversight of "the least transparent president that we’ve had in half a century."
"He's broken precedent by not releasing his tax returns," Kildee said. "We wouldn't need to go through this exercise if he had simply done what he had promised to do.
"This is not an autocracy. The president does not get to decide for himself and for Congress what a legitimate subject of inquiry might be," he said.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he would like "the president to follow through and show his tax returns."
But he called the Democrats' efforts to obtain the tax returns "moronic" and said it's "not going to happen."
"The courts are not going to say that you can compel a person running for office to release their tax returns. So he's going to win this victory," Romney predicted.
"I think the Democrats are just playing along his handbook," he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: White House chief of staff vows that Democrats will 'never' see Donald Trump's tax returns