The Justice Department released an opinion Friday defending Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s refusal to comply with a House Democratic subpoena for six years of President Trump’s personal and business tax returns.
Last month, Mnuchin said he consulted with the Department of Justice in making the decision not to hand over the returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, saying the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”
In its opinion Friday, the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel said that it advised the Treasury Department to deny the request.
“While the Executive Branch should accord due deference and respect to congressional requests, Treasury was not obliged to accept the Committee’s stated purpose without question, and based on all the facts and circumstances, we agreed that the Committee lacked a legitimate legislative purpose for its request,” the opinion states.
Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee issued subpoenas last month to Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig for the tax returns.
“While I do not take this step lightly, I believe this action gives us the best opportunity to succeed and obtain the requested material,” Neal said in a statement at the time.
The topic has been a contentious one for the president since his time on the campaign trail in 2015, and throughout his administration, as he has refused to release his financial information. Trump repeatedly has claimed that his tax returns are complicated, and he has maintained that he will not release them while they are under audit by the IRS.
Last week, The New York Times obtained Trump’s federal income tax returns between 1985 and 1994. The documents revealed that Trump claimed to have lost $1.17 billion from his real estate businesses during that decade. The Times added that it had compared Trump’s tax information with other high-income earners and found that Trump “appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer. The newspaper also reported that the losses were so substantial, that in the eight of the 10 years in question, Trump was able to avoid paying income tax.
House Democrats have been targeting Trump’s tax returns and financial documents since they took the majority in Congress in January. As part of their lead-off ethics package, which Trump’s lawyers cited in their filing Wednesday, Democrats’ legislation required presidents to disclose at least 10 years of their tax returns to the public, in what was an apparent swipe at Trump.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.