Treasury’s handling of Trump’s taxes probed by inspector general

Treasury’s inspector general is investigating how the department handled a request from Congress to turn over President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which was rejected by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal “has asked Treasury OIG to inquire into the process by which the department received, evaluated, and responded to the committee’s request for federal tax information. We are undertaking that inquiry,” acting Inspector General Rich Delmar said in a statement.

“There is no fixed deadline,” Delmar said in an interview. “It’s a top priority inquiry for us.”

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President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House

Neal has been leading congressional Democrats’ efforts to get access to six years of the president’s personal and business tax returns. Mnuchin rebuffed their request, arguing that Democrats want the returns for political reasons. Neal has said he needs the returns to ensure the IRS is following its policy of annually examining the returns filed by the U.S. president.

The probe was first reported by the New York Times.

Neal also has asked Delmar to conduct a “real-time inquiry” into whether the IRS conducted its annual audit of the president and vice president in a “fair and impartial manner” and whether anyone sought to intimidate officials who were charged with auditing the tax returns.

The Massachusetts Democrat said last week he’s been consulting with House lawyers about publicly releasing a complaint from a federal employee that alleges there were “inappropriate efforts to influence” the audit of Trump’s returns.

The request for the tax returns is separate from an impeachment inquiry being conducted primarily by the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees.

Neal first asked for Trump’s personal and business tax information in April, citing a provision in the tax code that allows the chairs of Congress’s tax-writing committees to receive the returns of any taxpayer. The provision doesn’t say that lawmakers need to state a legislative purpose, although some lawyers have said such a purpose is required.

The Ways and Means Committee sued Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in July to force them to surrender the returns, and Trump is waging a legal fight to prevent their disclosure.

— Laura Davison, with assistance from Kaustuv Basu (Bloomberg News)