Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hinted on Wednesday that his department would not comply with a subpoena for President Donald Trump's tax returns, a sign that Democrats will likely have to go to court if they want to continue in their fight for the President's tax records. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal subpoenaed the documents last week after making several requests in April using a section of the tax code that gives the chairmen of the congressional tax committees the authority to request any tax return, including those of the president.
"There's a difference in interpretation between Congress and us and the Department of Justice around this law that not only impacts this president and this Congress, but has a very big impact on every single taxpayer in weaponizing the IRS", Mnuchin said at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill.
Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig face a Friday deadline to hand over Trump's tax returns from 2013 through 2018.
Raising the stakes, Mnuchin suggested Wednesday he planned to reject that subpoena.
"We haven't had an official response yet, I think we have a few more days", Mnuchin told reporters.
Mnuchin is sticking to earlier arguments that Neal's demand for Trump's taxes would set a precedent that lawmakers could pursue confidential tax information for political purposes. "How much confidence to you think the American people will have in the Internal Revenue Service ... if we started doing that in this country?"
Mnuchin told the senators that Congress didn't need to see the president's returns to ensure the IRS was conducting audits properly.
Mnuchin also said in answer to a question that he has not discussed the dispute over the returns "with the president or with anybody in the White House".