May 22, 2019

Mnuchin says he's never discussed Trump's tax returns with the White House

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claimed at a House Financial Services Committee hearing that he has never spoken with Trump "or anyone in the White House about delivering the president's tax returns to Congress."

Why it matters: Mnuchin rejected a House Ways and Means Committee subpoena to turn over Trump's personal and business tax returns last week, arguing that it lacked "a legitimate legislative purpose." Last night, the Washington Post reported that a "confidential draft IRS memo" contradicted the administration's opposition to releasing President Trump's tax returns. The memo says the president's tax returns "must be given to Congress" unless he invokes executive privilege, per the Post.

  • Asked about the memo in the hearing, Mnuchin said: "The memo was marked 'draft,' it was not a final memo. I don't know how it got to the Washington Post, it would have been more interesting if it had got to me or the commissioner to review." He claimed he briefly read the memo on his way to his appearance.
  • Mnuchin also said that it would be "unlawful" for him to turn over Trump's tax returns, and that the Justice Department has assured him of this.

The big picture: The administration has long sought to prevent Congress from obtaining Trump's tax returns, even though the president repeatedly said he would release the documents while campaigning in 2016. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News last month that Democrats will "never" get Trump's tax returns.

Go deeper: IRS draft memo says Trump must turn over tax returns or assert executive privilege

Go deeper

Public transit's death spiral

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Public transit systems across the country are experiencing a painful trifecta: Ridership has collapsed, funding streams are squeezed, and mass transit won't bounce back from the pandemic nearly as fast as other modes of transportation.

Why it matters: Transit agencies could see an annual shortfall of as much as $38 billion due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to TransitCenter. At the same time, they're more important than ever, with more than 36% of essential workers relying on public transportation to get to work.

Go deeperArrow11 mins ago - Health

World coronavirus updates: London mayor says U.K. nowhere near lockdown lifting

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered hope in the fight against the novel coronavirus, saying she believes New Zealand has "turned a corner" after two weeks of strict lockdown measures. But London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said the U.K. is "nowhere near" lifting restrictions.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed over 82,000 people and infected 1.4 million others globally as of early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Global recoveries have surpassed 301,000. Spain has reported the most cases outside the U.S. (more than 141,000) and Italy the most deaths (over 17,000). Half the planet's population is on lockdown.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 35 mins ago - Health

Wisconsin may be the start of the 2020 election wars

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wisconsin voters braving lines in face masks — after a last-minute Supreme Court ruling against extending the absentee deadline — could foreshadow a nationwide legal struggle over how to conduct elections during the coronavirus outbreak, election experts say.

Why it matters: "It's a harbinger of what's to come in the next skirmishes in the voting wars" from now through November, Richard Hasen, a professor and national election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, told Axios.