Pulitzer Prize-winning business writer David Cay Johnston on Thursday published an editorial warning President Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin that he is currently in violation of federal law and could face up to a $10,000 fine, and be imprisoned for up to five years for failing to furnish the president’s tax returns as requested by House Democrats last week.
“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,” wrote Johnston, a specialist in economics and tax issues, in the Daily Beast. “It will for sure shock Trump, who claims that ‘the law is 100 percent on my side.’”
“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 the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. No request has ever been refused, a host of former Congressional tax aides tell me.”
Johnston notes that there is “a law requiring every federal ’employee’ who touches the tax system to do their duty or be removed from office,” fined up to $10,000, and imprisoned for up to five years.
Even if Mnuchin and IRS commissioner Charles Rettig do comply with Democrats’ request, Johnston writes that they may still have legal problems, thanks to “the provision requiring removal from office for anyone who ‘conspires or colludes with any other person.’”
“Mnuchin has acknowledged that Treasury officials talked with White House officials. And Rettig indicated he has spoken with Mnuchin and others at Treasury,” concluded Johnston. “How many others were in the loop? Maybe Congressional hearings will tell us.”
Congress could hold Mnuchin in contempt for failing to meet a Wednesday deadline for delivering Trump’s returns to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), a senior Ways and Means member, told POLITICO.
He also said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig should consider stepping down.
Last week Neal demanded the IRS deliver Trump’s tax returns by April 10.
Mnuchin told the committee that he’s currently consulting with Justice Department lawyers and couldn’t meet Neal’s deadline.
Neal is likely to send another letter Friday requesting the returns, Pascrell said.
“I want to take a look at contempt of Congress here,” Pascrell said, “because the way Mnuchin talked and the way he writes, he’s very dismissive of the legislative branch of government, particularly if that part of the legislative branch of government is controlled by the Democratic Party.”