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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:

Go deeper

Alabama trying to use COVID relief funds to expand prisons

Inside the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Ala., in 2018. Photo: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

Alabama state lawmakers are trying to funnel up to $400 million of the state's American Rescue Plan funds to pay for a $1.3 billion plan to build and renovate prisons across the state, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Diverting dollars from the COVID-relief package, passed in March, is prompting criticism over misuse.

2 hours ago - World

Jake Sullivan discussed human rights and Yemen with Saudi crown prince

MBS in 2018. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed efforts to end the war in Yemen, the de-escalation of regional tensions with Iran, and Saudi Arabia's human rights record in their meeting on Monday, a senior U.S. official told Axios.

Why it matters: This was Sullivan's first trip to the Middle East since taking up his post in January, and he was the most senior visitor to the kingdom so far from the Biden administration, which has kept the crown prince at arm's length over his roles in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Top Pentagon officials contradict Biden on Afghanistan advice

Photo: Carolone Brehman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Top military leaders confirmed in a Senate hearing Tuesday they recommended earlier this year that the U.S. keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and that they believed withdrawing those forces would lead to the collapse of the Afghan military.

Why it matters: Biden denied last month that his top military advisers wanted troops to remain in Afghanistan, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "No one said that to me that I can recall."