Steve Mnuchin and Maxine Waters spar over early dismissal

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks to the news media after giving a television interview at the White House in Washington Dec. 3 2018

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks to the news media after giving a television interview at the White House in Washington Dec. 3 2018

When testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, Mnuchin defended his admission at an earlier hearing that the Treasury legal department consulted the White House general counsel prior to getting Democrats' request.

"We're late all the time, unfortunately", said Waters.

Republican Trump has consistently refused requests by politicians, journalists and others, stating his reason for not doing so is that the returns are under audit.

Attorneys for the president have argued Neal's request risks using the IRS for partisan political aims, arguing House Democrats are engaged in a "gross abuse of power" that infringes on taxpayer privacy.

Mnuchin, however, said it would be "premature at this point to make any specific comments".

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, appearing before a Senate Finance committee hearing on Wednesday, said that he is "working with counsel and anticipating responding" to the House request for Trump's returns.

Neal, the Ways and Means chairman, requested six years of Trump's personal and business returns, relying on a 1924 statute that says the Treasury Department "shall furnish" them when requested. "I will be very clear if that's the way you'd like to have this relationship".

President Donald Trump continues to hold the line on refusing to release his tax returns.

At the end of a three-and-half-hour testimony before the House Appropriations Committee and Financial Services Committee, which is chaired by Waters, Mnuchin interrupted the hearing to remind the committee of a prior agreement that he would be able to leave by 5 p.m.

"I will cancel my meeting and I will not be back here", said Mnuchin.

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Neal, Massachusetts Democrat, set a Wednesday deadline for the IRS to respond, as party lines harden over the request that would give Congress an inside look into Trump's finances and business practices.

Rettig said he hadn't been instructed not to comply with the request by anyone acting on the White House's behalf. "Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns". He said he could handle a small delay, but told Waters that "it will be embarrassing" if he kept the official waiting.

Waters asked Mnuchin for another 15 minutes, pointing out that the secretary was not the only one short on time. "I hope you'll understand".

During congressional hearings this week, Rettig and Mnuchin both demurred on these questions, noting that the IRS is a bureau within the Treasury and has supervision over the tax-writing agency.

Mnuchin: Ok, well then please dismiss everybody.

"The Ways and Means Committee in particular has a responsibility to conduct oversight of our voluntary federal tax system and determine how Americans - including those elected to our highest office - are complying with those laws".

The head of the IRS faced questions from politicians for a second day on his response to Neal's request.

"The requests for [Trump's] private tax information are not consistent with governing law, do not advance any proper legislative goal, and threaten to interfere with the ordinary conduct of audits", said William S. Consovoy, Trump's attorney, in a statement.

Trump has said numerous times that his being under audit precludes the release of his returns, a refrain he has used numerous times since 2016.

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