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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has rejected House Democrats' request to turn over President Trump's tax returns for the third time.

"In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee's request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and pursuant to section 6103, the Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information."

The big picture: After several delays, Mnuchin had sent a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) informing him that the Treasury Department would consult with the Justice Department and decide by May 6 whether to release Trump's tax returns to Congress. Mnuchin's latest refusal is the most definitive and will likely set up a prolonged court battle between the Trump administration and House Democrats.

  • White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said last month on Fox News that Democrats will "never" get their hands on Trump's tax returns: "The Democrats are demanding that the IRS turn over the documents, and that is not going to happen, and they know it. This is a political stunt by my former colleagues."
  • Monday's refusal is part of a broader strategy by the Trump administration to ignore document requests and subpoenas by House Democratic committees attempting to conduct oversight.
  • As Axios has previously reported, those subpoenas are hard to enforce, and even holding Trump officials in contempt — as the House Judiciary Committee is seeking to do with Attorney General Bill — likely won't result in any serious consequences.

Chairman Richard Neal said in a statement: "Today, Secretary Mnuchin notified me that the IRS will not provide the documents I requested under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code. I will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response."

Mnuchin's letter:

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office.
  2. Health: Coronavirus death rates rising across the country — Study: Increased COVID-19 testing can reduce transmission — Hospitalizations top 100,000 for the first time.
  3. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  4. Vaccine: What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do — Obama, Bush and Clinton willing to take vaccine in public —WSJ: Pfizer expects to ship half as many COVID vaccines as planned in 2020.
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Clean trucks are paving the road to the electric vehicle era

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The electric vehicle revolution is underway, led by the un-sexiest of plug-in models: the commercial truck.

Why it matters: Growing demand for cleaner trucks means 2021 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles — just not the kind you might have expected.

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The fragile recovery

Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is falling but remains remarkably high three weeks before pandemic assistance programs are set to expire. More than 1 million people a week are still filing for initial jobless claims, including nearly 300,000 applying for pandemic assistance.

By the numbers: As of Nov. 14, 20.2 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits of some kind, including more than 13.4 million on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs that were created as part of the CARES Act and end on Dec. 26.