Last week, Donald Trump hired a new group of lawyers to do one very specific thing: keep the president's tax returns secret. Yesterday, those attorneys sent a letter to the Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, urging administration officials to look past the letter of the law.
President Trump's personal lawyer on Monday urged the Treasury Department not to hand over Mr. Trump's tax returns to House Democrats, warning that releasing the documents to lawmakers he accused of having a "radical view of unchecked congressional power" would turn the Internal Revenue Service into a political weapon. [...]Mr. Trump's lawyer, William S. Consovoy, said on Monday that the legal rationale behind [House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal's] dismissal of the Treasury Department's concerns was wrong.
As regular readers know, Richard Neal, exercising his authority under the law, formally told the Treasury Department two weeks ago that he's demanding access to the president's tax returns. The Massachusetts Democrat did so under a law that says the Treasury "shall furnish" the tax materials in response to a formal request from one of a handful of congressional lawmakers, including himself.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said in a written statement last week, "How many lawyers and how much time does it take for [Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin] to understand that 'shall' means 'shall'?"
And yet, yesterday, Trump's new private attorney told the Treasury that those pointing to the letter of the law are not making "a serious legal argument."
The correspondence added that "no one actually believes" Richard Neal is interested in legitimate congressional oversight. To bolster the point, the president's lawyer pointed to ... wait for it ... quotes from congressional Republicans.
What's more, in case the keep-the-tax-returns-secret legal team wasn't busy enough yesterday, Politico noted that the attorneys sent a separate letter to Trump's accounting firm.
President Donald Trump's attorneys are warning of potential legal action if an accounting firm turns over a decade of the president's financial records to the House Oversight and Reform Committee.Trump attorneys William S. Consovoy and Stefan Passantino are urging Mazars USA not to comply with a subpoena that Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued on Monday for Trump's financial documents, calling it a politically motivated scheme to take down the president.
It's not every day we see a president's legal team urge private entities not to comply with federal subpoenas. (The correspondence from Consovoy and Passantino was, by the way, very much on brand: it used the Republicans' deliberately wrong grammar, complaining about "the Democrat Party.")
I won't pretend to know how this will play out in the coming weeks and months, but it's nevertheless worth pausing to appreciate the desperation with which the president and his team are fighting to make sure Trump's tax returns are hidden from view.