WASHINGTON -- The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden sent letters to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig demanding information on the Treasury Department's refusal of House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal's request for six years of President Donald Trump's tax returns and related documents.
In the letter to Mnuchin, dated Tuesday, Wyden wrote that Mnuchin is "taking unprecedented steps that seriously undermine the ability of the congressional tax-writing committees to obtain tax return information necessary to the performance of their legislative duties."
He cited other instances where congressional committees did receive tax information, including on issues related to defunct nonprofit ACORN and to tea party groups, as evidence that Mnuchin's decision to withhold the returns is unprecedented.
Wyden demanded that Mnuchin and Rettig provide information on any times the IRS rejected committees' requests for returns as well as correspondence and other documents related to Mnuchin's decision to reject Neal's request.
The Treasury Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
A century-old law gives the congressional tax-writing committees the powers to request the tax information of any taxpayer, though some legal scholars believe such a request requires a legislative purpose.
Neal invoked his power to request six years of Trumps' returns in April, saying he needed them to properly oversee the IRS' routine audits of every president and vice president. That kicked off a monthlong stand-off in which Mnuchin first delayed and then denied Neal's request, claiming that his stated purpose was just a pretext for a political attack. Last week, Neal subpoenaed the Treasury Department for the documents, setting a deadline of this Friday to comply.
Wyden, who is the highest-ranked Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, in his letter to Rettig asked the IRS commissioner whether he had any communications with IRS legal staff surrounding Neal's request for Trump's tax returns before congressional testimony Rettig gave in April. Wyden demanded that Mnuchin and Rettig respond to his questions by May 28.
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