House Democrats sue Trump administration in effort to secure president's tax returns

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By Rebecca Shabad and Alex Moe  with NBC News Politics
Image: Richard Neal
Representative Richard Neal arrives for a hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 14, 2019.   -   Copyright  Anna Moneymaker Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the IRS and Treasury Department on Tuesday in an effort to secure access to President Donald Trump's tax returns, a committee spokesman said.

The move comes after a months-long battle with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the IRS over the tax records. Mnuchin has repeatedly denied Democrats' requests for the financial documents, which Neal initially requested in April.

Trump has claimed since the 2016 campaign that he cannot release his returns publicly because he is under audit by the IRS.

Neal issued subpoenas to the Treasury Department and IRS in early May after Mnuchin formally rejected his request for the tax returns. Mnuchin told Neal in a letter last month that the request for the president's tax returns "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose."

Last month, Democrats also approved a resolution in the House to authorize the House Judiciary Committee and other committees to go to court to enforce subpoenas targeting the Trump administration.

Under U.S. tax law, if the chairs of Ways and Means panel, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation formally requests a person's tax returns, Treasury officials "shall" turn the documents over, which leading tax analysts have said means officials must provide the records.