The Justice Department released Friday its legal opinion supporting the Treasury secretary's refusal to hand over President Donald Trump's tax returns .
Last month, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal issued a subpoena to Treasury and the IRS after the agencies rebuffed the Democrat's request for six years of the President's personal and business tax returns. Neal is invoking a little-known provision of the tax code which states the Treasury Secretary "shall furnish" the committee with the return information.
The move has been dismissed by Trump and his GOP allies as purely political, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a letter to Neal last month -- when he defied the subpoena -- that the request "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose" and that he is "not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information." Mnuchin has previously said he's been in consultation with the Justice Department for legal advice on the issue, but a formal written opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel had not be publicly released to date.
Mnuchin testified last month that he has not discussed the issue with Trump and told lawmakers: "I have been advised I am not violating the law. I would have never done anything to violate the law. Quite the contrary, I was advised had I turned them over I would be violating the law."
The Washington Post reported the day before his testimony that a confidential IRS draft memo last fall determined that the tax returns must be surrendered to Congress unless the President opts to invoke executive privilege.
Mnuchin said at the hearing that he had not discussed the memo prior to the Post's story, but the memo addressed a "different issue" than the one he and the Justice Department looked at.
Neal claims the request is part of his oversight role, and the returns are needed to consider legislation related to the IRS's practice of auditing sitting presidents.