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Plot to Hide Trump’s Tax Returns Hits the Skids

At present, Donald Trump is in the midst of a 16-day, five-alarm meltdown over an impeachment inquiry into his attempt to pressure Ukraine to discredit his political rival, a situation he didn’t help by soliciting yet more corruption on the South Lawn of the White House yesterday. So it doesn’t appear that he’ll have the time or the bandwidth to work in an extra hourly meltdown about an entirely separate investigation, this one into his elusive tax returns. Knowing him, though, he’ll surely rise to the occasion!

The New York Times reports that the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched an investigation into how the agency handled an April request from the House Ways and Means Committee for six years of Trump’s tax returns and the returns for some of his businesses. One month later, Treasury secretary and top Trump stooge Steve Mnuchin sent a letter to that committee‘s chairman, Richard Neal, informing the representative that he would not be turning over the requested information, saying that he’d consulted with the Justice Department—you know, the one run by William Barr—and it told him that it would be illegal for the administration to release the president’s tax returns, and doing so could violate his privacy (despite the fact that virtually every president since Nixon has released their returns). Mnuchin went on to say he had determined that the committee’s request “lack[ed] a legitimate legislative purpose,” and therefore he was “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.”

At the time, legal experts agreed that, despite Mnuchin’s long history of slobbering loyalty, it would be unprecedented for someone in his position to do the president’s bidding in such an overt fashion, given that a 1924 law flatly states that, “Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request.” And given the manner in which the president apparently routinely asks subordinates to break the law for him, some people think the Treasury (and IRS’s decision) to straight up refuse to turn over Trump’s financial information merits a further look.

In a statement to the Times, Rich Delmar, the Treasury’s acting inspector general, said Neal had asked his office “to inquire into the process by which the department received, evaluated, and responded to the committee’s request for federal tax information. We are undertaking that inquiry.” The probe comes shortly after news that a separate whistle-blower complaint, filed in July, detailed concerns by a career IRS official who alleged that political appointees at the Treasury may have “tried to exert influence over the mandatory audit of President Trump’s tax returns…improperly involving themselves in the audit and putting pressure of some kind on senior officials in the IRS.” A Treasury spokesman did not respond to the Times’s request for comment.

In related news, on Wednesday, the Justice Department joined the fight against a state subpoena from New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. seeking eight years of Trump’s tax returns from his longtime accounting firm, as part of an investigation into allegations that the Trump Organization falsified business records related to the Stormy Daniels hush-money payments. In that case, Trump’s lawyers have argued that it’s illegal to investigate a sitting president for any crimes he may have committed.

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