Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has found himself in the hot seat, and if he doesn’t handle things properly he may also find himself in jail.
Last week House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the IRS requesting six years of Trump’s personal and business returns. He asked the IRS to provide the documents by Wednesday. And today, Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig will be on Capitol Hill testifying before Congress.
Although Trump has had his lawyer and chief of staff publicly argue that he has no legal obligation to turn over his tax returns to Congress, a former Treasury Secretary told MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell that the law is clear and Trump must comply.
In fact, according to former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, a professor at Harvard, Mnuchin will be violating federal law if he interferes in the IRS commissioner giving Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Neal made his tax return request under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, which states that Treasury “shall furnish” tax returns upon request from the chairmen of Congress’s tax committees, as long as the committees review the documents in a closed session.
O’Donnell said during the show:
“It is the law that empowers the chairs of the House and Senate tax-writing committees to demand — not request, demand — from the IRS any tax return that they want to see.”
The MSNBC host then quoted a new Washington Post column written by Summers, saying:
“The appropriate response of the Treasury Secretary is very clear: Under a long-standing delegation order, the Secretary does not get involved in taxpayer-specific matters and has delegated to the IRS commissioner as follows:
‘The Commissioner of Internal Revenue shall be responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws.”
“This is not a delegation that is revocable.”
Summers then explained what this means:
“For Secretary Mnuchin to seek to decide whether to pass on the president’s tax returns to Congress would be inappropriate and illegal.”
In other words, If Mnuchin tries to interfere and stop the IRS from giving Neal Trump’s tax returns, he could be prosecuted for violating the law.
During the discussion with Summers, O’Donnell expressed surprise at what he had just learned, saying:
“I did not know that the delegation from the Treasury Secretary to the IRS Commissioner on matters of tax issues like this was actually in writing and that it’s a formal delegation and there’s a formal process for revoking that delegation.“
Summers replied saying:
“That’s right. You know, it’s the first one of the first things my general counsel told me when I became Treasury Secretary, was any individual tax matter affecting any individual taxpayer, you are under no circumstances going to be anywhere near.”
“And that applies to a request of this kind and for good reason.“
Trump Can’t Stop the IRS From Giving Congress His Tax Returns
No matter what Trump’s lawyers say, there is no legal basis for Donald Trump to refuse to comply with the clear language of the tax laws. If IRS Commissioner Rettig fails to comply with the law, he could be prosecuted. If Mnuchin interferes, and tells Rettig not to comply, he could be prosecuted also.
Donald Trump’s goal is always to intimidate his underlings so they will do his bidding even when it is against the law or against their own best interests. This is what he did to Michael Cohen, who is now serving a prison sentence for doing what Trump told him to do.
For Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig the day of reckoning has come. They now must decide whether they will serve the interests of the people of the United States, or the interests of a criminal president who is asking them to break the law.