5.22.19

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NATION

A20 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • WeDneSDAy • 05.22.2019

Draft IRS memo backs Congress’ right to see tax returns tive purpose for demanding them. But, according to the IRS memo, which had not been previously reported, the disclosure of tax returns to the committee “is mandatory, requiring the Secretary to disclose returns, and return information, requested by the tax-writing Chairs.” The 10-page document says the law “does not allow the Secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met” and directly rejects the reason that Mnuchin has cited for witholding the information. “[T]he Secretary’s obligation to disclose return and return information would not be affected by the failure of a tax writing committee ... to state a reason for the request,” it

BY JEFF STEIN AND JOSH DAWSEY

Washington Post

WASHINGTON — A confidential Internal Revenue Service legal memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president takes the rare step of asserting executive privilege, according to a copy of the memo obtained by The Washington Post. The memo contradicts the Trump administration’s justification for denying lawmakers’ request for President Donald Trump’s tax returns, exposing fissures in the executive branch. Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns but has not invoked executive privilege. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instead denied the returns by arguing there is no legisla-

says. It adds that the “only basis the agency’s refusal to comply with a committee’s subpoena would be the invocation of the doctrine of executive privilege.” The memo is the first sign of potential dissent within the administration over its approach to the tax returns issue. The IRS said the memo, titled “Congressional Access to Returns and Return Information,” was a

draft document authored by a lawyer in the Office of Chief Counsel and did not represent the agency’s “official position.” The memo is stamped “DRAFT,” it is not signed, and it doesn’t reference Trump. The agency says the memo was prepared last fall. At the time, Democrats were making clear they would likely seek copies of Trump’s tax returns under a

1924 law that states that the IRS “shall” turn over tax returns to Congress. Precisely who wrote the memo and reviewed it could not be learned. The agency says IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig and current chief counsel Michael Desmond, who took over in February, were not familiar with it until a Washington Post inquiry this week. The IRS says it was never for-

warded to Treasury. Executive privilege is generally defined as the president’s ability to deny requests for information about internal administration talks and deliberations. On Friday, Mnuchin rejected a subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee to turn over the tax returns, a move that will now likely lead to a court battle.

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