Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said Americans did not care about the issue and that his returns were being audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which tax and legal experts have said does not prevent their release. "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". "We had obviously read in the press that we were expecting this".
At a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig was pressed for a second day by Democrats about the request and whether he'd respond alone to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal's letter to obtain six years of Trump's tax returns.
President Trump speaks to f the media prior to his departure from the White House Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
"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.
Democrats want to review Trump's returns chiefly as part of their investigations into possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests even as he serves the public as president.
In the letter, Mnuchin said his department has "begun consultations with the Department of Justice to ensure that our response is fully consistent with the law and the Constitution", and it will miss the April 10 deadline set by Neal.
Mnuchin said it would be "embarrassing" if he kept the foreign leader, whom he later identified as an official of Bahrain, waiting any longer. He routinely says - as he did Friday - that he's under audit and therefore won't release his returns.
Trump's lawyer has argued that the president has the right to privacy as a citizen.
But many legal experts agree that this law is intentionally open-ended, meaning Congress still needs a legitimate legislative objective to make that request.
Presidential candidates since the Nixon administration have released their tax returns, but Trump has refused to do so.
Neal had faced mounting pressure from liberal members of his committee and from activist groups demanding that he issue the request, made under a 1924 law that empowers the heads of three congressional committees to request the returns of any filer. That is both because the statute cited by Neal to obtain the returns has hardly ever been contested, and because most document disputes between the legislative and executive branches of government are resolved by negotiation. "We have said we will comply with the law".
He is trying to flex Section 6103 of the tax code, which gives the chairmen of certain committees the power to demand tax returns of any individual.