Steven Mnuchin Trump tax returns, Democrats’ coming demand for the returns.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin clashed Thursday with House Democrats over their plans to seize President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Mnuchin, who would field the Democrats’ coming demand for the returns, repeatedly declined to detail how he would handle the request since he has yet to receive it, though he appeared to imply the administration intends to fight it.

“I will consult with the legal department within Treasury and I will follow the law,” Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee, in his first appearance before the panel since Democrats took control of the chamber in January. “I can’t speculate on the request until I see it.”

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But he also asserted that Treasury wouldn’t just bow to the request.

“We will follow the law and we will protect the president as we would protect any individual taxpayer under their rights,” he said.

Mnuchin told lawmakers Trump has not directed him to reject their demands and said he has not discussed the issue with anyone at the White House. He also said he didn’t know if Trump’s tax rate went down in the wake of the new tax law.

His comments came as Democrats prepare to try to use an arcane law to seize Trump’s returns, which Trump has repeatedly declined to make public despite a decades-old tradition of presidents releasing their tax information.

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Though such filings are normally confidential, a nearly 100-year-old law allows the heads of Congress’ tax committees to examine anyone’s returns. Experts say lawmakers can vote to make those filings public.

Democrats are now preparing their formal request.

“It’s happening, and it’s coming — so be prepared,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) told Mnuchin.

The administration has previously signaled it intends to fight any request. It has an incentive to tie the issue up in court, perhaps in hopes of retaking the House in 2020.

Democrats Thursday tried to portray their request as not unusual, pointing out that the IRS routinely shares — privately — tax information with other federal agencies, as well as state governments.

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In fact, forcibly releasing the president’s returns would be highly unusual. Critics warn it will open the door to lawmakers using tax returns as a weapon with which to embarrass their political opponents.

At one point, Mnuchin appeared to get irritated by the tax return questions, telling lawmakers, “I’m not continuing to go down this again of you asking me 20 question on this.”

He quickly backpedaled though, saying: “Actually, with all due respect, I take that back — you can ask the questions and I will try to answer them.”

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