The White House said on Monday that it won't be turning President Donald Trump's tax returns over to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for scrutiny.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wrote to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal saying that the committee's request "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose."
The move, which was expected, is sure to set in motion a legal battle over Trump's tax returns. The chief options available to Democrats now are to subpoena the IRS for the returns or to file a lawsuit.
Neal originally demanded access to Trump's tax returns in early April under a law that says the IRS to "shall furnish" the returns of any taxpayer to a handful of top lawmakers, including the chair of the tax writing Ways and Means committee.
The president has told those close to him that the attempt to get his returns was an invasion of his privacy and a further example of what he calls the Democrat-led "witch hunt" — like special counsel Robert Mueller's probe — meant to damage him.
Trump has repeatedly asked aides as to the status of the House request and has not signaled a willing to cooperate with Democrats, according to a White House official and two Republicans close to the White House.