“I got ‘em right here, Mister President.”
By Mark Wilson/Getty Images
As you’ve probably heard by now, Democrats, along with at least half the country, would like to see Donald Trump’s tax returns—the ones he promised to turn over at the conclusion of a “routine audit” that may or may not actually exist. Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that Congressional Dems were expected to request 10 years of the president’s returns from the Treasury Department in the coming weeks, using a 1924 law that gives the chairs of the House and Senate tax-writing committees “broad powers to demand” such information. We already knew that, as one of Trump’s most loyal lackeys, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would likely force lawmakers to pry his boss’s financial records from his cold, dead hands. And on Thursday, he more or less confirmed it!
Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, signaled on Thursday that he would likely block a congressional request to obtain President Trump’s tax returns on privacy grounds, setting up a potential legal battle if Democrats follow through with plans to request those documents.
During an occasionally testy hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Mnuchin was peppered with questions from Democrats about whether he believes Congress has the authority to access the tax returns of American citizens in general and the president in particular . . . he indicated that taxpayer privacy, including that of the president, is paramount.
“We will protect the president as we would protect any individual taxpayer under their rights,” Mr. Mnuchin said.
The president, of course, isn’t just any individual taxpayer, and his returns could include vital information about who has paid him over the years, and whether or not he engaged in any of the fraud alleged during Michael Cohen’s hearing on Capitol Hill. (As a reminder, that would include potentially providing inflated assets to insurance companies; deflating his assets by many multiples in order to reduce his tax liability; and generally engaging in activities laid out by last year’s New York Times investigation that constitute “outright fraud.”) While House Democrats argued that “numerous requests” for tax returns are made every year and that, strangely, Treasury officials never interfere in these non-presidential cases, Mnuchin chose to pretend he’d never heard of such a thing. “I’m not aware that there has ever been a request for an elected official’s tax returns,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, lawmakers came away from the conversation unsatisfied with the answers Mnuchin provided, which is becoming a feature of their time with the former foreclosure king. “What he said today was little more than mumble jumble double talk,” Representative Lloyd Doggett told reporters after the hearing. Should Mnuchin go through with blocking the request for the president‘s taxes—and, given his fealty to Trump, there’s a good chance he will!—Democrats would likely attempt to force his hand by filing a lawsuit in federal court, which could drag the process out over a period of months. As the Post notes, that delay could work in Trump’s favor, particularly if the battle reaches the Supreme Court, where he’s handily installed a number of friendly faces who may be happy to protect his “privacy.”
More Great Stories from Vanity Fair
— How three brothers hijacked South Africa
— The deepening mystery of Trump’s SAT scores
— The best crime show you’re not watching
— Is this Trump move an actual, real-life impeachable offense?
Looking for more? Sign up for our daily Hive newsletter and never miss a story.