Democrats in the US House of Representatives have filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump’s administration demanding six years of the president’s tax returns, amid an escalation in the battle for Congress to review the president’s financial records.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by attorneys representing the House Ways and Means Committee. The lawyers cited failures to comply with the committee’s requests for records by the president’s top appointees and administration officials, including US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Charles Rettig, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
“In refusing to comply with the statute, Defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people who participate in the Nation’s voluntary tax system," the lawsuit read.
The move arrived after Congressional committees had worked with lawyers for weeks to determine their most viable options to enforce subpoenas for the president’s tax returns.
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, the committee said it has no need to explain its reasoning behind its requests for the president’s records.
Mr Trump’s administration defied Congressional subpoenas “in order to shield President Trump’s tax return information from Congressional scrutiny,” the statement read.
The administration and its Republican allies in Congress have meanwhile pushed back on the Democrat-led committee’s requests, claiming the subpoenas resulted to a weaponization of the tax code. Some politicians have also claimed there was no legislative purpose served by Congress reviewing the president’s finances.
Democrats on the committee said their investigations involve possible violations of tax law compliance on the part of Mr Trump.
Mr Trump defied the historical precedent and modern bipartisan tradition of releasing his tax returns while running for president in 2016, claiming he was under audit by the IRS and therefore unable to provide his financial records.
The IRS has since effectively refuted those statements. The agency’s commissioner acknowledged it was well within Mr Trump’s ability to release his own records even while under audit during a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in April. .
Mr Rettig confirmed at the hearing there was “no rule that would prohibit the release of a tax return because it's under audit.”
The agency has also previously pushed back against the president's suggestions from 2016 that he was under audit due to his political beliefs or Christian faith, saying in a statement: "
The IRS stresses that audits of tax returns are based on the information contained on the taxpayer’s return and the underlying tax law — nothing else."
"Politics and religion do not factor into this," the statement continued. "The audit process is handled by career, non-partisan civil servants, and we have processes in place to safeguard the exam process.”
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