Watchdog finds Treasury acted properly in denying request for Trump tax returns

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, formally requested the President’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service in April 2019, a request that House Democrats argued was necessary as part of their oversight role, but that the President pushed back against and criticized as partisan.

Mnuchin denied the request and subsequently defied subpoenas from the committee over the tax returns.

Richard Delmar, the Treasury Department’s acting inspector general, wrote in a letter to Neal and Kevin Brady, the panel’s ranking Republican member, on Wednesday that an inquiry that examined the handling of the tax return request determined that “the Department processed the request properly.”

The letter stated that the department “sought legal guidance from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), determined that it was bound by that office’s advice, and based on that advice determined not to provide the returns and tax information sought.”

“We report the Treasury decision to conform to that advice, and do not have a basis to question that decision,” Delmar wrote.

The letter added, “We do not presume to opine on the analysis and conclusions of the OLC opinion and advice.”

In fall 2019, Neal requested the Treasury inspector general investigate after reports surfaced that a whistleblower had sent a letter to Neal raising questions about whether the request for Trump’s tax returns had been handled improperly.

Republicans quickly touted the results of the inquiry with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa saying in a statement “This should put to bed any question about the Treasury Department’s handling of this matter.”

“From the beginning, Democrats have insisted that something must be awry if they didn’t immediately get their way. But that’s not how checks and balances work and it’s not how the process of congressional oversight works,” Grassley said.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, on Friday disputed that the Treasury inspector general fully investigated questions of political motivations in the handling of the request for Trump’s tax returns.

In a scathing statement, Wyden said that the review “falls far short, taking the word of Treasury Department officials that they did nothing wrong at face value and dismissing contradictory interviews.”

“This is a serious matter that deserved a much more thorough investigation,” Wyden said.

“The report notes that there was no formal documentation of how Chairman Neal’s request was handled,” the senator said in his statement. “It provides no legal explanation for the Treasury Department’s decision to ignore the normal process and a crystal-clear law that requires that these records be turned over. It also provides no legal explanation for the unprecedented decision to seek a Justice Department opinion in response to a request from one of the tax committee chairmen.”

Separately, the Inspector General’s office at Treasury tells CNN that its review did not investigate claims by a whistleblower that there was political interference in Treasury’s handling of Neal’s request for the President’s tax returns.

This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.

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