President Trump responded with a dismissive remark on Wednesday after a House committee chairman formally requested the IRS to provide several years of his personal and business tax returns, in a move that prompted the congressional Republicans to warn that the Democrats had "weaponized" tax law.
Told by a reporter at the White House that the Democrats wanted six years of his tax return, Trump replied: "Is that all? Usually it's 10. So I guess they're giving up. We're under audit, despite what people said and we're working that out – I'm always under auditing, it seems, but I've been under auditing for many years, because the numbers are big and I guess when you have a name, I am not inclined to do that. "
The request Wednesday by the Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, who heads the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, is the first such demand for a sitting president's tax information in 45 years.
Neal made the request in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig asking for Trump's personal and business returns for 201
"It is critical to ensure accountability of our government and elected officials," Neal said in a statement. "To maintain confidence in Our democracy, the American people must be assured that their government operates properly as the laws require. "
The president's congressional allies registered a immediate and fierce disappointment. The top Republican on House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, R- Texas, wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to decry what he called Democrats 'abuse' of their authority.
"Weaponizing our nation's tax code by targeting political foes sets a dangerous precedent and weakens Americans' privacy rights, as you know, by law all Americans have a fundamental right to the privacy of personal information found in their tax returns," Brady said in the letter. "This particular request is a violation of the tax-writing committees' statutory authority, and violates the intent and safeguards of Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code as Congress intended."
That provision of tax law Brady added that while "transparency in our government is extremely important," the taxpayers' "privacy and freedom" is paramount – and that Congress should pass new disclosure laws if it sees Brady asserted, "begins the process of eroding and threatening the privacy rights of all taxpayers."
A spokesperson for Senate Finance Committee Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Fox News that "the ability of the chairman to request such information is intended to inform the legislative process, which is how it was used in the past, not engaging in a politically- motivated fishing expedition. "
Congress" passed section 6103 of the tax code to prevent that kind of abuse of power and to protect every taxpayer's privacy, "the spokesperson continued. "It would be the opening of the door to future abuse of power and would poison the public's confidence in the ability of the IRS to keep personal information private. This is the result of any taxpayer and their elected representatives should want to avoid. "
Neal specifically requested the federal income tax returns from eight entities, including the Trump National Golf Club-Bedminster, as well as statements specifying whether the returns were ever under audit. Neal also required all administrative files, including affidavits, related to each return.
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Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Followed up with a statement backing up his counterpart in the House.
"The law is crystal clear. The Treasury Department must provide tax returns to the Ways & Means and Finance Committees when the chairman requests them. I expect the Treasury Department to comply in a timely manner, "Wyden said. "Chairman Grassley should make the same request so the Senate Finance Committee members are also able to access them."
Fox News' Mike Emanuel, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press have contributed to this report.