Watchdog says Mnuchin followed procedures in Trump tax inquiry

Laura Davison

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin followed department procedures and consulted the appropriate legal counsel when he refused to release President Donald Trump’s tax returns to House Democrats, according to a watchdog report.

The Treasury inspector general had been investigating, at the urging of House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, how Mnuchin handled Neal’s requests for Trump’s tax returns.

The inspector general “found Treasury’s receipt, processing and responses to Chairman Neal’s requests for records and subpoenas to be consistent with Treasury’s general process for handling congressional correspondence and requests to include Secretary Mnuchin supervising the matter,” according to the report released Friday.

President Donald Trump listens as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Thursday, April 2, 2020, in Washington.

The investigation didn’t examine the legal opinions Treasury used when declining to release the records. Legal issues over efforts to get access to Trump’s tax returns are being litigated in courts.

House Republicans said the report is exoneration for Mnuchin.

“This report by the Inspector General proves that earlier politically motivated accusations are debunked – Secretary Mnuchin followed the law, complied with all requests, and there is proper oversight taking place at Treasury,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the panel, said in a statement on Friday.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said Democrats “insisted that something must be awry if they didn’t immediately get their way. But that’s not how checks and balances work.”

Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said the investigation “falls far short.” He said it took at face value officials’ statements that nothing was done wrong and failed to describe the basis for concluding that Trump’s outside lawyers didn’t influence the process.

Erin Hatch, a spokeswoman for the House Ways and Means Democrats, declined to comment directly on the report and said the panel was focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has broken with decades of precedent for presidents by refusing to release his returns. Neal has been leading congressional Democrats’ efforts to get access to six years of the president’s personal and business tax returns.

Mnuchin rebuffed Democrats’ request, arguing that they want the returns for political reasons. Neal has said he needs the returns to ensure the IRS is following its policy of annually examining the returns filed by the president.