Congress' quest for Trump tax returns likely headed to court

Defiant US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin rejects a congressional subpoena for President Donald Trump's tax records

Mnuchin defies House Democrats' subpoenas for Trump's tax returns

The Ways and Means chair issued a subpoena for six years of Trump's returns last week, following more than a month of delays from Mnuchin.

Mnuchin sent another letter today saying they are still not handing over Trump's tax returns, stating "we have determined that the Committee's request lacks a legitimate legislative objective".

The denial is not a surprise.

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When he issued the subpoena last week, Neal said he was seeking six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns to aid a committee investigation into whether the IRS is doing its job properly to audit a sitting president and whether the law governing such audits needs to be strengthened.

But, the disregard for the subpoena brings into sharper focus the eventual court fight and raises questions about what Neal might do next.

In a statement Friday after Mnuchin's decision was announced, Neal said that the law "does not allow for discretion as to whether to comply with a request for tax returns and return information".

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"I don't see that right now as an option", Neal told reporters Friday, even though he said he did not expect him to comply with the subpoena. Now, Neal will likely turn to the courts, embarking on a lengthy battle that could help define Congress' powers to oversee the executive branch. Neal says he's entitled to the returns under section 6103 (f) of the IRS code, in order to conduct oversight and determine whether the IRS is enforcing laws. The same law mandates the Treasury Secretary "to furnish" the returns upon request.

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.

Going forward, courts will likely consider whether Neal made the request with a legitimate legislative goal in mind.

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