In a letter to the Treasury Department on Monday, Donald Trump’s attorney compared the pursuit of Democratic lawmakers gunning for the president’s long-hidden tax returns to the government targeting civil-rights leaders during the height of segregation.
“Congress’s motives do matter under the Constitution. Take the Constitution’s ban on intentional racial discrimination, for example. What if, during the height of the civil-rights movement, the Democrat-controlled House tried to intimidate African-American leaders by requesting their tax returns?” William Consovoy, who also reps the president in a separate emoluments case, said in the signed, three-page letter, which cc’s Trump’s Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The letter, which is the latest in a robust attempt to keep Trump’s financial records concealed, paints Democratic lawmakers as being driven by impure, legally sketchy motivations, even as numerous legal scholars say Congress is within its rights to request and obtain such information.
“Surely,” Consovoy writes, “no one would agree with [Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee] that the other branches could not ‘question or second guess the motivations’ of Congress….The same is true for the First Amendment’s ban on political retaliation.”
Jay Sekulow, another personal attorney of Trump’s who is overseeing the ongoing legal fight over the tax returns, told The Daily Beast on Monday afternoon, “We have once again reiterated our objections to the unconstitutional demand for the President’s tax returns.”
Consovoy’s letter, addressed to Treasury’s general counsel Brent McIntosh, was written in response to Chairman Neal reiterating his demand for years of Trump’s tax returns over the weekend. Neal issued a deadline to the IRS to produce those records by April 23. In his original request early this month, Neal had also asked for returns for the president’s trust and seven entities in the Trump business empire. He and other Democrats on the committee contend that Congress has the legal authority to review the documents under existing law.
Trump had promised multiple times on the campaign trail to make his tax returns public. But he never did, insisting that he was under audit and was advised, as such, to keep that information private—though no law exists that prevents someone under audit from releasing their tax returns. After winning election, he and his team have said the issue has been effectively adjudicated since voters did not punish him at the ballot box over not releasing the returns.
Democrats didn’t see it that way. And as they began to compile the case of the IRS to turn over the tax returns, the president assembled an outside legal team to fight them. The likely outcome appears, at this juncture, to be a vicious court battle.