Today it was announced that Richard Neal, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, having been denied Trump’s tax returns by Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury — via the normal process of requesting them, per federal law — filed in court a complaint suing the Treasury, Mnuchin, and the Commissioner of the IRS for their obstruction.
Most of you have read the story. And a lot of you have been fuming about why it took Neal so long to sue, why the Democratic majority in the House has been slow to react to the administration obstruction — an outgrowth, we can figure, of McConnell’s Big No approach to opposition government.
Which is why I’m giving you the actual document. I have a few things to point out about it.
- It’s 49 pages long.
- It contains 140 paragraphs and 135 footnotes. Some of the footnotes are longer than the paragraphs.
- It is not boilerplate; the lawyers who worked on it could not copy and paste sections of other complaints to pull this together, since, as the complaint says, there has never been such a situation before. No administration since 1924, when the applicable law was enacted, has refused to comply with this Congressional request.
- It refers to numerous acts, laws, rules, case law and many sections of the Internal Revenue Service Manual. Every reference is supported by a footnote naming the citation, often quoting from it, with section, paragraphs and page references.
- There are many quotes from legislative hearings, newspaper articles, Trump and his administration officials, and letters.
- The complaint is, first, a history of how the pertinent law came to be enacted in 1924, which involves an interesting summary of the Teapot Dome Scandal.
- Next, it is a detailed history of the administration’s stalls and rejections of the Committee’s request for Trump’s taxes, with many quotes and references to documents attached as exhibits (not included in this pdf document).
- And there’s a bullet list of previous and fulfilled demands of this kind so that the Committee could oversee specific functions of the IRS.
- For anyone who thinks the House Democrats have done nothing much with their majority, there’s a very nice summary of a few House bills passed since January 2019 which directly refer to the complaint.
- On the last page, the complaint is signed by six lawyers identified as counsels to the House Committee; in a footnote, thanks are given to two law students who helped prepare the document.
I did all this for a reason, so you can understand how much precision research goes into these things. Every supportive citation must be covered thoroughly and potential arguments against the complaint’s purpose are addressed as well, and argued against.
This work was done for the court, in two ways.
First, naturally, it presents the Committee’s arguments to the Court.
Second, it demonstrates to the Court that before asking the Court’s intervention, the Committee has taken every minute step to accommodate the other side, to have full discussion, to show how reasonable the Committee has been but how every move the Committee has made was rejected unreasonably and without legal support by the other side. So now the Court must step in.
I assume the defendants get to respond and then the Committee lawyers will answer the response.
So when you get impatient and ask why the hell Richard Neal didn’t do this months ago…
Read the complaint. You’ll get it: good law takes time.