Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin engaged in a heated debate with Democratic Rep. and House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters during a Tuesday budget hearing before the House Financial Services Committee.
"We would not ever ask for the White House's permission on this nor did they give us the permission", he said. "It is being reviewed by the legal department and we look forward to responding to the letter".
On April 5, lawyers for Trump sent the Treasury Department general counsel a letter telling him not to release the records until the Justice Department has issued a new legal opinion.
Mnuchin said that he was scheduled to meet with a senior official from the Bahrain government.
Democrats are asking for six years of Trump's returns, using a federal law that says the treasury secretary "shall follow" the request of House or Senate chairmen in releasing tax return information. "As you know, I got elected last time with this same issue", Trump told reporters Wednesday morning before heading to Texas on a campaign re-election trip that will also include an executive order signing ceremony.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday held steady in his refusal to publicly release his tax returns, despite mounting pressure in Congress that is likely to spur a legal battle for the documents to be disclosed.
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"I think that there was any communication with the White House about this is deeply troubling and certainly violates the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law, and I think we need to get to the bottom of this", she told Mnuchin at the afternoon hearing.
Democratic Rep. Nydia Velázquez of NY shot back, "And the law says - upon a written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate or the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the secretary shall furnish".
But tax experts say the state returns won't contain the "bombshell" information Trump critics might hope to find.
"If this is the way you will treat me, I will rethink" returning, Mnuchin said at one point.
Waters took particular exception to this remark, replying: "Please don't instruct me on how I'm supposed to conduct this committee". "You are ordering me to stay here".
Waters then cut in, offering that Mnuchin was free to leave whenever he wished, but Mnuchin pushed further, appearing to ask for official permission to leave.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrives to testify before a House Appropriations subcommittee during a hearing on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in Washington. "Ironically, the very reason that Trump says he won't hand over the information is one of the very reasons that Congress should rightfully be requesting that information".
Other presidential candidates, dating back to the Nixon administration, have released their tax returns. Neal made a case for this in his letter, writing that the request was part of his committee's oversight role, with the objective of determining whether the IRS is fairly and impartially auditing Trump.