It was widely expected, but it’s nonetheless a jarring development. Today was the legally mandated deadline for the IRS to turn over Donald Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has personally intervened in order to put a stop to it. The next step is for the House to put Mnuchin’s freedom in jeopardy. No, really. We’re at that point now.
Just a few moments ago, Mnuchin sent a letter to Congress, stating that his department “could not complete its review” in time to meet the House Ways and Means Committee’s deadline, according to the Washington Post and other major news outlets. Tellingly, Mnuchin says that he’s planning to consult with the Department of Justice about the request. The DOJ just happens to be run by William Barr, the same guy who has spent the past month trying to prevent the Mueller report from seeing the light of day.
In other words, Mnuchin and Barr are going to try to invent some imaginary legal ground for refusing to comply with the law when it comes to Trump’s tax returns. But that won’t matter. House Democrats aren’t going to take this lying down. The committee has a couple options for moving forward. It can subpoena Trump’s tax returns. It can also arrest Mnuchin for contempt of Congress. Mnuchin would be thrown in jail, and a federal judge would then have to decide if Mnuchin would remain behind bars until he complies.
We’ll see how far Steve Mnuchin is willing to take this dangerous game. When he was testifying before the House Financial Services Committee yesterday, he came off as extraordinarily nervous. Make no mistake, though: what Mnuchin just said to Congress was ‘come arrest me.’ We’ll soon find out if Mnuchin is bluffing, because he knowingly committed a crime by sending this letter today, and he’ll be harshly held accountable unless he reverses course quickly.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report