Mnuchin says government will shield Trump’s tax returns, same as any taxpayer’s

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury will work to shield President Donald Trump from a congressional request to see his tax returns, protecting his privacy just like it would for any taxpayer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday.

Democrats took control of the House of Representatives this year and are expected to demand to see Trump’s past tax returns, hoping the documents will help to identify any conflicts of interest posed by Trump’s global business empire.

Trump defied decades of precedent as a presidential candidate by refusing to release his tax documents and has continued to keep them under wraps as president, saying his returns were under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

Mnuchin told lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday he has met with legal experts at the Treasury to discuss the expected request from Democrats.

“We will protect the president as we would protect any individual taxpayer under their rights,” Mnuchin said at a House hearing.

He said he would not speculate on a specific strategy for handling a request from lawmakers because he has not yet received one.

Democrats on the committee pressed Mnuchin repeatedly on Treasury’s obligations under a complex tax provision, known as Section 6103 of the U.S. tax code, regarding disclosure of personal tax information.

“There’s an awful lot of interest in 6103 today,” Mnuchin said.

He pledged to fulfill his obligations if he receives a request. “I will consult with the legal department within Treasury and I will follow the law,” he said.

A Democratic member of the committee said earlier this month he believed the panel would ask for Trump’s returns in a few weeks.

The House is expected to consider a Democratic measure that would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns, codifying a voluntary practice that existed for decades until Trump ran for president in 2016.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe)