Donald Trump and his top White House aide declare that the administration will not give the president’s tax returns to Congress, as required under a 1924 anti-corruption law. But both the Treasury secretary and the tax commissioner have been much more nuanced, saying that they will obey the law even as they delay actually doing so.
I know why Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Charles Rettig, the IRS commissioner, are so cautious. They don’t want to be removed from office and sent to prison for five years just for doing Trump’s bidding.
The reason will no doubt surprise those who think Trump can thumb his nose at the law governing congressional access to anyone’s tax returns, including his. It will for sure shock Trump, who claims that “the law is 100 percent on my side.”
The exact opposite is true.
Under Section 6103 of our tax code, Treasury officials “shall” turn over the tax returns “upon written request” of the chair of either congressional tax committee or the federal employee who runs Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. No request has ever been refused, a host of former congressional tax aides tell me.
There is, however, a law requiring every federal “employee” who touches the tax system to do their duty or be removed from office.