Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, wrote in a letter to Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of MA and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, that Mr. Neal's request for the tax returns "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose" and that he was not authorized to disclose them.
The Treasury Secretary writes only that DOJ "intends to memorialize its advice in a published legal opinion as soon as practicable".
"A number of legal experts have said it would be unprecedented for Mnuchin to refuse to turn over the tax returns, as the power for lawmakers to seek the returns is written explicitly in a 1924 law", The Post notes. The chief selections available to Democrats are to file a lawsuit or to subpoena that the Internal Revenue Service to your yields.
Neal said he "will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response" to Mnuchin's stonewalling.
Federal law limits the kind of federal tax information that states are permitted to disclose, which could translate into criminal penalties if NY state's Department of Taxation and Finance does not adhere to statute should Neal request Trump's returns.
Other Democrats on the panel were less restrained.
Mnuchin has said Neal's request would potentially weaponize private tax returns for political purposes.
The committee chairman could issue a subpoena on top of his request, or Democrats could move to hold the Treasury Secretary or IRS Commissioner for whom the original request was addressed to in contempt of Congress.
Legal analysts say, however, that there is no prohibition on revealing tax returns that are under audit. While Congress does have broad authority to investigate the Executive Branch, that authority is not unlimited and this is one of the cases where it must be able to articulate why it needs to see the returns beyond merely stating "we want to see them".
Some legal experts have speculated that the Trump administration or Trump's attorneys could try getting a federal court to prevent NY state from turning over the president's records.
"The president also has told people near to him which the attempt to receive his yields was an invasion of his privacy and a further instance of what he calls the Democrat-led" witch hunt" - like special counsel Robert Mueller's stunt - supposed to harm him.
Trump has repeatedly asked aides as to the status of the House request and has not signalled a willing to co-operate with Democrats, according to a White House official and two Republicans close to the White House.
The president has long told confidants that he was under audit and therefore could not release his taxes.