Economy

Steve Mnuchin and Maxine Waters spar over early dismissal

Steve Mnuchin and Maxine Waters spar over early dismissal

At a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told lawmakers that White House lawyers consulted with his agency about the possible release of President Trump's tax records, leading Democrats to raise concerns about political interference. "It is being reviewed by the legal department and we look forward to responding to the letter".

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that the American people will "never" see Trump's tax returns.

Allies of the President have argued that the Democrats have no right to see his returns.

"We intend to follow through with this", Neal said Wednesday.

Mnuchin told a House panel that he personally has not had any communications with the president or his top staff about the department's decision on whether to provide Trump's tax returns under a almost century-old law that says the Treasury Department "shall furnish" them when requested by top lawmakers.

Mnuchin faced grilling before House panels on appropriations and financial services, where Democrats aggressively questioned him over President Donald Trump's tax returns, sanctions policy toward Russian Federation and his personal finances.

"As you know, I got elected last time with the same issue, and while I'm under audit, I won't do it", Trump told reporters Wednesday.

Trump says he can not release the tax returns because he is under audit, and the administration has put up a united front aimed at blocking the documents from being released.

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At the end of a three-and-half-hour testimony before the House Appropriations Committee and Financial Services Committee, which is chaired by Waters, Mnuchin interrupted the hearing to remind the committee of a prior agreement that he would be able to leave by 5 p.m.

Mnuchin then threatened not to return to the committee voluntarily, telling Waters: "If you'd wish to keep me here so that I don't have my important meeting and continue to grill me, then we can do that". IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told lawmakers that "we're working on" a response to a request from Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. He said the department would likely respond by Neal's deadline but didn't say whether he would provide the returns as demanded. Once the tax returns are out, reporters could find something that the IRS missed. The 1924 law in question has never been challenged in court, and this is the first time it is being used to compel the provision of the president's tax returns.

But Mnuchin, who pointed to the Bahraini official waiting in his office, refused the request, saying that further delay would be "very embarrassing" for the secretary.

The secretary told Waters that he was in a time crunch and needed to be in a meeting with a high ranking Bahraini official by 5:30pm-a change to the schedule that he only informed Waters, the chair of the committee, about the day before.

"You made me an offer that I accepted", Waters said.

Mnuchin told Waters, "Please dismiss everybody". Trump's private attorneys have asked Treasury to deny the request as well.

During the 2016 campaign, he defended Trump's decision to break with tradition by refusing to release his tax filings. Under questioning at his confirmation hearing last August, Rettig pledged to uphold the political independence of the IRS.