READ: DOJ Releases Opinion Justifying Refusal To Give Trump's Tax Returns

READ: DOJ Releases Opinion Justifying Refusal To Give Trump's Tax Returns”

The Justice Department released an Office of Legal Counsel opinion late Friday afternoon providing an explanation for why it believes that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can not comply with a House request for President Trump's tax returns.

"The Chairman's request that Treasury turn over the President's tax returns, for the apparent goal of making them public, amounted to an unprecedented use of the Committee's authority and raised a serious risk of abuse", the opinion said.

The 33-page opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel argues that the committee's chairman, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., wanted to make the president's tax returns public and because of that plan, the request was not to carry out a legitimate legislative function.

Federal law "protecting confidentiality of tax returns prohibited the Department of the Treasury from complying with a request by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for the president's tax returns", Engel wrote. Engel said that Mnuchin was right to say this was not a legitimate legislative objective.

The Justice Department's backing of Treasury's refusal to provide the president's tax returns is likely to further tensions between congressional Democrats and Attorney General William Barr, whom they've accused of trying to stonewall Congress' constitutional oversight power.

But the agency concluded that Congress can't give itself the right to compel information that does not serve a legitimate legislative objective, and that Neal's request was "pretextual".

Legal analysts have said Mnuchin's move would be highly unusual, and some House Democrats have said they expected to take legal action to get a court to intervene. Trump repeatedly has claimed that his tax returns are complicated, and he has maintained that he will not release them while they are under audit by the IRS.

"As I explained in my May 6 letter to the Committee, the Department of the Treasury (the Department) has consulted with the Department of Justice concerning the lawfulness of the Committee's unprecedented request", Mnuchin said.

The OLC acknowledges that a law does not require Neal to state a goal when requesting tax returns.

"Under the facts and circumstances, the Secretary of the Treasury reasonably and correctly concluded that the Committee's asserted interest in reviewing the Internal Revenue Service's audits of presidential returns was pretextual and that its true aim was to make the President's tax returns public, which is not a legitimate legislative objective", Engel wrote in his letter, which was submitted to the Treasury Department's general counsel.

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