The department’s Office of Legal Counsel said Mnuchin was correct to deny the request by the House Ways and Means Committee on grounds that it lacked “legitimate legislative purpose.”
“The law required Treasury to deny the request,” Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel said in a 33-page memo to the committee. “The committee’s asserted purpose — to consider legislation regarding the [Internal Revenue Service’s] practices in auditing presidential tax filings — was implausible.”
The Democrat-led committee subpoenaed the Treasury and IRS on May 10 for six years of the president’s tax returns after Mnuchin denied them access days earlier.
“In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, we have determined that the committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and … the department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information,” Mnuchin said in a letter to committee Chairman Richard Neal at the time.
The Democrats had hoped a nearly 100-year-old tax code provision requiring the Treasury to furnish tax returns upon request by Congress would get them the documents.
Mnuchin accused Democrats of “weaponizing” the IRS to get Trump’s tax returns for political gain.
Clyde Hughes contributed to this report.