The House Ways And Means Committee, the committee in charge of tax laws in the United States, has sued the IRS and the Treasury Department to gain access to President Trump’s tax returns.
After filing the lawsuit, the House argues that the administration’s continual defiance in providing the information is “an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the I.R.S., and the tax laws on behalf of the American people.”
Back in April, Richard Neal, the chairman of the committee, requested six years of Trump’s tax information. As CNN reports, Neal vied for IRS provision 6103, which allows the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to request this information for “a legitimate legislative purpose.” This provision dates from the 1920s Teapot Dome scandal.
The committee stated that they needed the tax returns in order to understand how the IRS administers the presidential audit program. But, the Treasury said that wasn’t enough of a “legitimate” purpose. After a series of letters between the committee and the Treasury Department, the department denied the request in May. Neal then shifted gears into issuing subpoenas to the IRS and Treasury in mid-May. That attempt was also denied.
The Justice Department has taken both sides during this event for different reasons. The Office of Legal Counsel supported the Treasury Department in a 33-page memo after the May subpoena attempt, according to the New York Times. Steven A. Engel, the office’s leader, wrote:
“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.”
Meanwhile, two judges have sided with Congress on their authority to pursue investigations with subpoenas. (Though, the Trump administration is trying to appeal these court decisions).
“There can be no doubt as to the power of Congress, by itself or through its committees, to investigate matters,” federal Judge Edgardo Ramos said at a court hearing in May. “Without the power to investigate … Congress could be seriously handicapped in its efforts to exercise its constitutional function wisely and effectively.”
This is just the latest in an ongoing battle over Trump’s tax records. The House Oversight Committee (which recently questioned Gilead over the increasing prices for PrEP), the House Intelligence Committee, and the House Financial Services Committee have all vied for Trump’s financial records to no avail.