Tee up the next big political fight for Congressional oversight of President Donald Trump: The Justice Department has announced that the IRS does not have to give his tax returns to Congress.
The announcement came in the form of an opinion from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) late on Friday afternoon. The opinion, signed by Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel–a Trump appointee–concluded that Congress does not have a legitimate lawmaking purpose for demanding the president’s tax returns, and assessed that lawmakers only wanted the documents so they could make them public. At issue is a long-overlooked provision in federal law that gives the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee wide latitude to ask for individuals’ tax returns. But according to the OLC opinion, Congress never had the right to give itself the power to demand confidential executive branch material for reasons other than lawmaking.
“Congress could not constitutionally confer upon the Committee the right to compel the Executive Branch to disclose confidential information without a legitimate legislative purpose,” the opinion reads.
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