The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a new legal opinion on Friday that agreed with the Treasury Secretary’s refusal to turn over the tax returns of President Donald Trump.
Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel submitted a thirty plus page opinion with some strong wording. The submission stated that the demand for Trump’s tax returns was equivalent to an unparalleled use of the House of Ways and Means Committee authority. Additionally, Engel cited a high risk of possible abuse by the committee in the matter.
Committee Chairman Richard Neal has been battling the Trump Administration for weeks now. Neal finally was able to issue a subpoena to the Treasury and the IRS in May after the agencies rebuffed a request from Democrats that requested six years of tax returns both personal and in business from President Trump.
Neal has used a relatively unknown provision in the tax code that allows the Treasury Secretary to furnish the committee with tax return documents and claimed the returns are needed in order to ponder legislative proposals in relation to federal tax laws and the auditing of sitting presidents.
The DOJ Office of Legal Counsel allowed this authority by Neal and stated that the tax code text does not require the committee to provide any purpose in support of its desire to obtain tax information. The Counsel also revealed that Neal’s oversight justification was only “pretextual” and the real reason for requesting the tax information of President Trump was to make them available to the public.
The Office of Legal Counsel and Engel stated that no one could believe in a rational sense that the committee wants six years of tax information from the president because of newly discovered interest in terms of legislation in relation to the auditing process of sitting presidents. Also, Engel accused the committee of misrepresentation in terms of their honest reason for the request of President Trump’s tax documents over the last six years, implying that the real reason may be a violation of policy.
The Office of Legal Counsel therefore concluded that the Treasury Secretary had duties pertaining to not exposing the tax documents, since taxpayer information is prohibited in a general sense and only acceptable under special and detailed circumstances. In this instance, exposing the tax documents would not be correct because of the lack of a justified legislative purpose.
CNN has attempted to obtain comment from Neal regarding the matter. Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley said to refer questions in the matter to the DOJ.
Neal has remained stagnate in terms of enforcing the subpoenas. The actions by the Office of Legal Counsel on Friday symbolizes their strategy moving forward if the issue went to federal court.
Last month, the Washington Post reported that a top-secret draft memo last fall determined that President Trump’s tax returns were to be given to congress unless President Trump chose to enforce executive privilege regarding the matter. This story is currently developing, and more updates will be available in the coming weeks.