Mnuchin: Courts will resolve Trump tax return fight

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By Rebecca Shabad  with NBC News Politics
Image: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin waits outside the Office of the U.S
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin waits outside the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington on May 10, 2019.   -   Copyright  Alex Edelman Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that the House Democrats' subpoena for six years of President Donald Trump's tax returns would likely be resolved in the courts.

At a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the president's 2020 budget request, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., repeatedly pressed Mnuchin on whether he agrees that Congress has an interest in verifying that the IRS is fairly enforcing the law and making sure the president is paying the taxes he owes.

"I think Congress has a legitimate interest to make sure that the IRS is performing the function properly as it relates to any taxpayer," Mnuchin also said. "If you're referring to the specific request for the president's tax returns...I think this is a very important issue that has a precedent way beyond any president and Congress that affects the weaponization of the IRS and could be used against anyone."

Mnuchin noted that there's a "difference in interpretation" between Congress, IRS and Department of Justice of a federal law that says the IRS "shall" furnish requested tax returns to Congress.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., made a formal request for Trump's tax returns last month, which the Treasury Department rejected last week, prompting Neal to issue a subpoena for the documents last Friday.

Mnuchin suggested that he plans not to comply with the subpoena issued by Ways and Means by the deadline this Friday.

"We have a Constitution and we have a third branch of government," he said. "First of all, we haven't made a decision, but I think you can guess which way we're leaning on our subpoena."

If there is litigation, he added, "I take great comfort that there's a third branch of government to deal with this important issue..."

"This is why there are three branches of government and if there is a difference of opinion, this will go to the third branch of government to be resolved," he said, referring to the judicial branch.

Asked by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., whether the Treasury secretary had discussed Ways and Means' request with Trump or administration officials, Mnuchin said he had "not discussed this with the president or anybody in the White House."