Erin Schaff/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin again delayed a decision on whether to turn over President Trump’s tax returns to Congress, telling House lawmakers late Tuesday that the Treasury and Justice Departments needed until May 6 to assess the legality of the “unprecedented” request.
In a letter to Representative Richard E. Neal, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Mnuchin said that the Treasury Department “cannot act upon your request unless and until it is determined to be consistent with law.” Mr. Mnuchin said the department expected to make a final decision by May 6 “after receiving the Justice Department’s legal conclusions.”
Earlier Tuesday, Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, signaled that Mr. Trump was girding for a protracted fight over his tax returns.
“As I understand it, the president is pretty clear, once he’s out of audit, he’ll think about doing it, but he is not inclined to do so at this time,” Mr. Gidley said on Fox News.
Mr. Trump has used the excuse of an Internal Revenue Service audit since the 2016 presidential campaign as a reason not to release his tax records, though no law prevents a taxpayer from releasing returns while under audit.
This month, Mr. Neal formally requested from the Internal Revenue Service six years’ worth of the president’s personal and business tax returns. The Treasury Department, which oversees the I.R.S., missed the first deadline to provide the returns, and Mr. Mnuchin previously told Mr. Neal in a letter that he needed more time to study the lawfulness of the request.
Mr. Mnuchin expressed concern that the request was being made for political purposes and was a violation…