U.S.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders: This Congress Is Probably Not 'Smart Enough' to Review Donald Trump's Tax Returns

House Democrats have set an April 23 deadline for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to turn over several years of President Donald Trump's personal and business tax documents, but White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday that she doesn't believe these lawmakers are intelligent enough to understand the president's finances.

Sanders appeared on Fox News Sunday, where host Chris Wallace attempted to get a quick yes or no response to the question of whether Trump will order the IRS to defy a request from the House Ways and Means Committee for copies of the president's tax information. 

Instead of a yes or no, Sanders responded with Trump's go-to answer on this topic.

"The president has been clear since the beginning. As long as his taxes are under audit, he's not gonna release them," she said. "He's also filled out hundreds of pages in financial disclosures."

Wallace interrupted her, trying again to get a concise response.

"Will he tell the IRS not to release them though?"

"We'll have to see what happens on that front, but the president's been clear. This issue has already been litigated; we went through it in 2016. One of the biggest things that I think people aren't seeing is the fact that the only reason that the Oversight Committee has the ability to request someone's taxes are for the purposes of determining policy. This has nothing to do with whether or not they're going to determine policy. This is all about political partisanship." 

Wallace did not correct Sanders on the specific committee requesting the Trump tax documents. It is not the House Oversight Committee, but rather Ways and Means. Federal law explicitly grants authority to a handful of committees — including Ways and Means, but not Oversight — to request any tax returns or information.

"This is a dangerous, dangerous road," continued Sanders, "And frankly, Chris, I don't think Congress — particularly not this group of congressmen and congresswomen — are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume that President Trump's taxes will be. My guess is that most of them don't do their own taxes, and I certainly don't trust them to look through the decades of success the president has had."

Sanders' appearance came a day after Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal extended the deadline for IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to provide the requested six years' worth of Trump personal and business tax returns.

Neal had originally given the IRS until April 10 to comply with its request, but instead of responding, the agency left it to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to explain why the committee's request could not be processed in time.

"The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically-motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power," wrote Mnuchin, adding that the Treasury Department had "begun consultations with the Department of Justice to ensure that our response is fully consistent with the law and the Constitution."

Neal didn't respond to Mnuchin, but sent his answer Saturday in a second letter to Rettig, saying that the concerns raised by Mnuchin "lack merit" and that the law granting him the authority to request tax documents is "Unambiguous and raises no complicated legal issues that warrant supervision or review by" the Justice or Treasury Departments.

"It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury, or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the Committee or its reasonable determinations regarding its need for the requested tax returns," continued Neal. "Indeed, the Supreme Court has consistently noted that the motivations underlying Congressional action are not to be second guessed, even by the courts."

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