House tax chairman sees court fight over Trump's returns

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top House Democrat edged the U.S. Congress closer to a legal fight with President Donald Trump over its investigations of him, saying on Friday he would rather appeal to the courts than pursue contempt charges if Trump’s tax returns are not released. The Treasury Department was expected to disregard a Friday deadline imposed by House tax committee Chairman Richard Neal for handing over Trump’s returns, the latest example of a broad stonewalling strategy by Trump against congressional probes. Asked whether he was considering pursuing contempt charges against administration officials as a result, Neal told CNN: “I don’t see what good it would do at this particular time. I think that if both sides have made up their minds, better to move it over to the next branch of government, the judiciary.” Neal issued subpoenas last week to Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service seeking six years of Trump’s individual and business tax returns. He set a deadline of 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Friday for Treasury to produce the returns. Unlike Neal, other top Democrats faced with administration defiance over inquiries have moved toward contempt charges. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s panel voted last week to recommend that the House cite Attorney General William Barr with contempt of Congress. Democratic leaders are considering bundling several separate contempt citations into a single House of Representatives package to bring to a floor vote later this year. Trump is flatly refusing to cooperate in numerous U.S. congressional probes of himself, his family and his presidency. On Wednesday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to Nadler, saying Congress has no right to conduct a “do-over” of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, and that it would not participate in his committee’s investigation. On Thursday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings announced another probe into the Trump administration, targeting what Cummings called “secret ethics waivers,” or allowing political appointees to continue working on matters they worked on before entering government. Cummings said in a statement he had requested that the administration turn over copies of waivers for political appointees to let them conduct official business, despite potential conflicts of interest.

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