WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he's been told by ethics officials in his department that he's in compliance with government ethics requirements even though his forms haven't been certified by the top federal watchdog.
"I've been advised by Treasury that I am in full compliance and have no ethical issues," Mnuchin said Thursday at a Senate Finance Committee hearing.
The Office of Government Ethics hasn't certified the secretary's disclosure forms, though it has had them for more than a year. The office typically doesn't certify reports when a filer is either under investigation, not in compliance with ethics laws, or has filed a report that OGE can't verify.
Last month, the OGE said it had rejected Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' annual disclosure, which also had been delayed for more than a year. OGE said it declined to certify his paperwork after Ross reported that he had sold off his shares in BankUnited Inc. that year; he actually sold the stock in October 2018.
Mnuchin is the wealthiest Treasury chief in recent history. In 2017 he agreed to divest stakes from 43 companies and investments to avoid conflicts of interest. His filing in 2017 indicated his assets were valued at as much as $392 million.
At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Thursday, Mnuchin said that if Congress sends him a request for President Donald Trump's tax returns, he'll consult with the agency's legal department and follow the law.
"I haven't received the request," he said in response to a question during the House panel hearing. "If you have a request for me today I'm happy to accept it."
Democrats who now control the committee are eager to get the returns and are easing their way into an almost-certain legal battle. Trump broke decades of tradition by refusing to release the documents during the 2016 campaign, and has continued to do so.
Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts -- as well as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the head of the Joint Committee on Taxation -- have the power under a 1924 law to ask the Treasury secretary to turn over the tax returns of any person, including the president.
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