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Mnuchin Refusal to Hand Over Trump Tax Returns Called 'Blatant Affront to Rule of Law'

"The American people can and will hold Donald Trump and the corrupt officials in his administration accountable—no one, not even the president, is above the law."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo: AP)

Following Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's formal refusal to hand over six years of President Donald Trump's tax returns, progressive groups late Monday urged House Democrats to stop waiting for the administration to comply with the law and immediately subpoena the documents—and hold Mnuchin in contempt of Congress if necessary.

"This blatant affront to the rule of law cannot go unanswered," Tax March and Stand Up America said in a joint statement.

"If Trump once again faces only Republican silence and Democratic timidity, he will continue to erode our democracy by assuming more and more power."
—Rep. Lloyd Doggett
House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) "has no choice but to subpoena Trump's personal and business tax returns and, if the stonewalling continues, hold Secretary Mnuchin in contempt of Congress for illegally shielding the returns," the groups said.

"The American people can and will hold Donald Trump and the corrupt officials in his administration accountable—no one, not even the president, is above the law," the statement concluded.

The progressive groups' call for action from the Democratic House came after Mnuchin sent a letter to Neal Monday evening rejecting the Ways and Means Committee's demand for Trump's tax returns, claiming the request does not "serve a legitimate legislative purpose."

Mnuchin said in his letter that he relied on "the advice of the Department of Justice" in making this determination. According to the Washington Post's Damian Paletta, the Justice Department refused to release its formal legal opinion on the matter—possibly because it doesn't exist.

A number of legal experts have said the law clearly states Mnuchin must release the president's tax returns upon request from Congress.

"The statute is very clear and seems like very strong support for what Mr. Neal is trying to do," George K. Yin, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, told Roll Call last month. "I think [Mnuchin] obviously needs to think very seriously about that; now he might not care if he gets fired, but I think he would care if he gets sent to jail."

Mnuchin sent his letter to Neal just hours after the House Judiciary Committee scheduled a Wednesday vote on whether to hold Trump Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress over his refusal to comply with a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report.

Neal said he "will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response" to Mnuchin's stonewalling.

Progressives were quick to argue there is no reason to delay legal action any longer, particularly after Neal dragged his feet in the process of formally requesting Trump's tax returns.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, expressed agreement with progressives' demand for rapid action in a statement late Monday.

"We need immediate legal action. We cannot allow this bad president to set bad precedent," Doggett said. "If Trump once again faces only Republican silence and Democratic timidity, he will continue to erode our democracy by assuming more and more power."

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