Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged Tuesday that the agency's lawyers have been in contact with the White House about an official congressional request for six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Mnuchin, however, said that he had not personally spoken to Trump or to anyone at the White House about the request.
During testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee, Mnuchin revealed that his agency’s legal department had held “informational” discussions with the White House Office of General Counsel about the congressional request for the president’s tax returns, even before the demand was submitted.
“Our legal department has had conversations prior to receiving the letter with the White House General Counsel,” he said.
“They have not briefed me as to the contents of that communication, I believe that was purely informational,” he added.
Last week, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., formally requested six years of Trump's personal and business tax filings from the IRS under a statute that allows him to demand an individual's tax returns.
Mnuchin said Tuesday that his department had received the request and that "it is our intent to follow the law."
Later Tuesday, during a second round of testimony before the Financial Services Committee, he was asked by the panel's chair, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., if he'd comply with congressional requests for the Trump returns even if it meant he could be fired by the president for doing so.
“As I said before, we will follow the law," he said. "I'm not afraid of being fired at all."
If the Treasury Department denies Neal's request, that could set off a legal battle to obtain them.
Trump and other White House officials have indicated that the request is likely to be denied.
Trump told reporters last week that he was "under audit" and would not be releasing the returns — an explanation he has used repeatedly since the 2016 election cycle. Being under audit does not preclude Trump from making his tax information public.
And in a letter Friday to the Treasury Department, Trump’s attorney, William Consovoy, called on the IRS to reject Neal's request, saying it "would be a gross abuse of power" that could lead to a political tit-for-tat.
Then, on Sunday, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told "Fox News Sunday" that Democrats will "never" be able to obtain Trump's tax filings.
Trump is the only major presidential candidate of either party since the early 1970s not to release his tax returns, and Democrats have pushed for him to release his tax documents since the 2016 campaign.