President Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow is pushing back against Democratic pressure to subpoena the president’s personal and business taxes.
Sekulow told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday morning that seeking the tax returns falls outside the realm of a “legitimate legislative purpose” and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal’s request is a weaponizing of the Internal Revenue Service, ABC News reports.
“It’s not the law for the United States,” Sekulow said of the idea a president or presidential candidate release his or her tax returns. “We don’t have a requirement that presidents do that. The president decided not to do that because he has an ongoing IRS audit.”
Pres. Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow says, "if necessary," the fight over Trump releasing his tax returns "will be litigated."
— ABC News (@ABC) April 8, 2019
Sekulow said if Democrats want Trump’s tax information to overview the IRS’ auditing program as they claim, then they could just ask the IRS about the program itself and leave the president’s tax information out entirely.
“This idea that the real reason that Congress and Chairman Neal have asked for these [tax] documents is because they want to know if the IRS is doing its job and auditing the president—well, they could ask the IRS, what job are they doing? What are their auditing procedures?” Sekulow continued.
“This idea that you can use the IRS as a political weapon which is what is happening here is incorrect both as a matter of statutory law and constitutionally,” he added via ABC News.
“We should not be in a situation where individual private tax returns are used for political purposes. As you just said, George, what would stop another party from doing this same thing?” Sekulow continued.
“If necessary, and we aren’t at that point yet, but if it has to be litigated, it will be litigated,” he said.
Here’s more, from ABC News:
Last week, the Democrat-controlled panel formally requested Trump’s business and personal tax information dating back to 2013 from the IRS. In making his request, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., cited Section 6103(f) of the federal tax code, an obscure, nearly hundred-year-old provision, which says that the Treasury Secretary “shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request.”
The very purpose of the tax code provision Neal wants to exercise was written with the express intention of executive branch oversight, in the wake of the 1920s Teapot Dome scandal, said Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow in the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and a tax lawyer with 25 years’ experience.
“If you look to the legislative context for why this statute exists, and then why Neal is asking, there is not any credible argument to refute the request,” Rosenthal told ABC News.
In a letter to the Treasury Department’s general counsel on Friday, a new lawyer for Trump, William Consovoy, called the move by Democrats “a gross abuse of power” and encouraged the IRS to “refrain from divulging the requested information.”
Sekulow said he has the right as Trump’s attorney to protect the interests of his client, including an objection to Chairman Neal’s request: “As the president’s counsel, we have the right to protect his interests as a private citizen and as president.”
Stephanopoulos then pivoted the conversation to the Mueller report and whether its contents would be made publicly available.
“The president has said he turns this over to the attorney general,” Sekulow answered. “The attorney general, pursuant to the regulations, George, makes the determination as to what’s released, how it’s released.”
From ABC News:
On Wednesday, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee voted to authorize subpoenas for the full report, but the chairman of that panel, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has said the committee would “work with the attorney general” before issuing any subpoenas.
“I find it ironic that people are talking about subpoenas already for the documents when we’re probably less than a week away – or about a week away – from getting them,” Sekulow said Sunday.
The Washington Post later reported that the special counsel’s office had prepared summaries that could be released publicly, reflecting different sections of Mueller’s report, which Barr has withheld. One source told the Post that the summaries contained potentially sensitive information that needed to be vetted before release.
Sekulow responded: “There’s two conclusions that are important to reiterate: No obstruction, and no collusion.”
As the situation stands, the attorney is tasked with any eventual release. Attorney General Barr said he would adhere to the public interest in releasing the Mueller report.