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House Democrat angrily confronts Mnuchin over refusal to release Trump's tax returns

Posted March 3, 2020 1:12 p.m. EST

— A House Democrat and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin were involved in a testy exchange Tuesday over Mnuchin's refusal to release President Donald Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee.

During a Ways and Means Committee hearing, Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey angrily confronted Mnuchin for not handing over the tax documents to the committee and accused the Treasury secretary of "staggering lies" in his reasons not to comply with Congress.

For months, the Ways and Means Committee has been locked in a battle with the Trump administration for the President's personal and business tax returns, which Trump, in breaking with presidential precedent, has refused to release.

"By refusing to turn over Donald Trump's business and personal tax returns to this committee, I think you're breaking the law," the New Jersey Democrat said.

"Your stated reasons for stonewalling our requests, you never cite any superseding legal basis. The only thing you suffer is smug rhetoric and staggering lies," he added later.

Mnuchin said that he found Pascrell's characterization "offensive" and said that he's relying on legal counsel.

"In all due respect, I am not breaking the law. You have a different interpretation. You're not a judge and this will be determined by a court," Mnuchin told Pascrell.

"Neither are you," Pascrell fired back as his time expired.

Mnuchin faced similar accusations from House Democrats last year, when he refused to comply with Democrats' requests and subpoenas for Trump's tax returns under an obscure law that specifies the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" the information requested by the heads of the tax-writing committees.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal formally requested in April six years of the President's personal and business tax returns, escalating it to subpoenas in May, claiming that he needs Trump's taxes in order to conduct oversight of the IRS's presidential audit program.

The Justice Department in a legal opinion released in June supported Mnuchin's refusals to hand over Trump's tax returns, concluding that the demand for tax information amounted to an "unprecedented" use of the committee's authority and raised a "serious risk of abuse."

The US Supreme Court decided in December that it will consider whether the House and a New York prosecutor can subpoena Trump's longtime accounting firm and banks for his financial records.

The cases will be heard in March, with rulings expected by June amid the presidential race.

In three cases that have made it to the Supreme Court, Trump has lost in the lower courts where judges have pointed out that other recent presidents have voluntarily disclosed their tax records.

Pascrell previously told CNN that he would like the Ways and Means committee to hold Mnuchin in contempt of Congress to make it clear just how serious the committee is about getting the tax returns.

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