Published: Thu, April 11, 2019
Markets | By Erika Turner

Steve Mnuchin and Maxine Waters spar over early dismissal

Steve Mnuchin and Maxine Waters spar over early dismissal

"I think that there was any communication with the White House about this is deeply troubling and certainly violates the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law, and I think we need to get to the bottom of this", she told Mnuchin at the afternoon hearing.

"While I'm under audit I would not give my taxes - there's no law whatsoever". Once the tax returns are out, reporters could find something that the IRS missed.

Federal law allows the Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees and the Joint Committee on Taxation to ask the IRS for the returns of any filer, but some legal scholars say a request requires Congress to have a legislative objective, including general oversight.

Treasury's general counsel, seated next to Mnuchin, whispered in his ear. He said that members of Treasury's legal team had had consultations on the matter before the tax return request was made but that the Treasury officials had not sought any type of permission to release the returns.

"We intend to follow through with this", Neal said Wednesday.

Mnuchin told politicians that his department will "follow the law" but hasn't shared the department's interpretation of the statute. They say it requires the Treasury secretary to turn over any tax returns to the chairmen of the congressional tax committees who request them for investigative purposes.

"We have received the letter, we're working on the letter with counsel, we anticipate to respond", Rettig testified.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on Sunday that lawmakers will "never" see Trump's returns.

Waters said: "No, I'm not ordering you". "I have no obligation to do that while under audit and no lawyer would tell you to release your tax returns while you're under audit".

Also, things got a bit heated at the end of Mnuchin's more than three hours of testimony. He said he could handle a small delay, but told Waters that "it will be embarrassing" if he kept the official waiting.

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Waters: You're free to leave any time you want. "And I have the gavel", she said. "If you wish to leave, you may".

The public back-and-forth exposed the rancor between Mnuchin and Waters, a California Democrat who has promised aggressive oversight of President Donald Trump's administration and has long advocated for his impeachment.

Mnuchin then sarcastically offered to stay, an offer that Waters said she'd take him up on. "I believe you're supposed to take the gavel and bang it", Mnuchin concluded.

"Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee", she warned.

On April 3, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., requested the returns, both for Trump's personal income and a range of his businesses. The IRS is part of Treasury. Democrats have cited that the Treasury has delegated tax-related matters to the IRS. The IRS has said that there's nothing preventing the president from publicizing them prior to the audit's completion.

Asked if he would comply, Mnuchin said he would "comply with the law" but stopped short of saying he would commit to handing over the returns.

Trump's lawyer has argued that the president has the right to privacy as a citizen. "The only this works is if the American people trust the IRS and trust this information will be held private". They simply provide the service of allowing people to have the sense that if there's something wrong, then someone would have said something.

Democrats want access to the returns as part of investigations into Trump's business dealings and his campaign.

"The requests for [Trump's] private tax information are not consistent with governing law, do not advance any proper legislative goal, and threaten to interfere with the ordinary conduct of audits", said William S. Consovoy, Trump's attorney, in a statement.

Before traveling to Texas on Wednesday, Trump reiterated that he won't be releasing his tax returns while he is now under audit. Under questioning at his confirmation hearing last August, Rettig pledged to uphold the political independence of the IRS.

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