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By Associated Press
WASHINGTON – State Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed on Thursday that he will protect President Donald Trump's privacy if he receives a request from House Democrats for Trump's tax returns.
Mnuchin asked if he would accommodate a request for Trump's previous tax returns. Chairman Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., Expected Formally to Ask For Those Like Democrats Are Seeking to Uncover Trump's Economic Relations and Potential Conflicts of Interest.
"We will investigate the request and we will follow the law … and we will protect the president as we would protect any taxpayer" regarding their right to privacy, Mnuchin said.
Neal is one of only three congressmen authorized under a rarely used 1924 law to request a person's tax return in writing to the Secretary of Finance. The law says that the Secretary of State "must" set the desired material for members of the committee to investigate behind closed doors. But Mnuchin didn't specifically say he would turn them over.
The unprecedented movement would probably constitute a major legal battle between Trump's administration and democrats controlling the Parliament. The fight can take many years to resolve, possibly extending beyond the 2020 presidential election.
Neal could move in the coming weeks to ask for the documents. "It happens and it comes, so be prepared," Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., Told Mnuchin at the hearing.
Democrats say that seeking Trump's tax documents falls within their mandate for congressional monitoring; The Republicans accuse the Democrats of using powers in tax law to mount a political witch hunt. Republican lawmakers have relied on privacy concerns and the confidentiality of all tax acts, suggesting that the Democrats would leak Trump's returns so that they would become public.
Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has suggested that the Democrats might find it difficult to prove that their claim was intended to pursue legal congressional monitoring and was not a political scavenger hunt.
Mnuchin was asked if Trump had intervened in some way or asked him to ignore the expected tax return request. "He doesn't," Mnuchin replied. He said he did not discuss the issue with anyone in the White House or with Trump's lawyers.
For decades, Trump broke the tradition of presidential candidates by refusing to release his income tax applications during his 2016 campaign. He has said that he will not release them because he is being audited even though IRS officials have said taxpayers are free to release their returns. Trump claimed at a press conference after the November election that archiving is too complex for people to understand.
Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said in his detailed testimony of a house committee last month that he asked Trump to review paperwork to prepare Trump's answers to journalists about the problem, but never received any documentation. Cohen said it led him to assume that Trump is not being revised.
Getting Trump's returns has been high on the Democrats' list of priorities as they won control of Parliament in November's mid-term elections. The Democrats tried and failed several times as the minority party in Congress to achieve Trump's return.
They want to explore many aspects of Trump's complex economic conditions and the empire of companies. Among them: whether there are conflicts of interest between Trump's companies and his presidential actions, whether he has paid taxes, and whether he has personally benefited from the sweeping Republican tax laws adopted at the end of 2017.