WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday he will make a determination by May 6 on whether to comply with House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal's request for six years of President Donald Trump's tax returns.
Neal had set a deadline of 5 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday for the administration to comply with his request. The Treasury Department announced shortly after the deadline that Mnuchin had sent a 10-page response to the Massachusetts Democrat's request.
The letter repeats previous arguments made by Mnuchin and Trump's private lawyer that "exposure for the sake of exposure" is not a valid reason for seeking the returns, and that Democrats appear to have a political rather than a legislative motive for requesting the documents.
Neal issued a terse two-sentence statement after receiving Mnuchin's letter.
"This afternoon, Secretary Mnuchin notified me that once again, the IRS will miss the deadline for my 6103 request," Neal said, using shorthand for the Internal Revenue Code section that gives him authority to obtain tax returns. "I plan to consult with counsel about my next steps."
Neal had said 10 days ago that he would consider missing Tuesday's deadline to be a denial of his request, and therefore a possible violation of the statute.
What comes next in the standoff over the president's tax returns will likely lead to a court fight, though Neal has said he will move "methodically and judiciously" to obtain the documents.
Legal experts say it's Mnuchin who needs to be careful.
If noncompliance continues to be the administration's tack, the chairman of the tax-writing panel has three options, attorneys said. Neal could issue a subpoena for the information, file a lawsuit in federal court asserting his authority to get the returns or take the matter to the full House and seek to hold Mnuchin, IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig or both in contempt of Congress.
At an event held by the left-leaning advocacy group Tax March last week, California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu, who sits on Ways and Means, said Neal "would likely issue a subpoena for the returns" and if the administration doesn't comply "a legal battle would begin to defend Congress' investigative authority," according to a transcript supplied by Tax March.