President Donald Trump pushed in February for his nomination of the Internal Revenue Service’s chief counsel to be fast-tracked in the Senate, even before the chamber held confirmation hearings on Trump’s pending nominee for attorney general, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Trump asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on February 5 to prioritize Michael Desmond’s confirmation vote over William Barr for attorney general, a person familiar with the conversation told the Times.
The President told McConnell that Desmond, who was first considered by the Senate Finance Committee in July, was increasingly frustrated with the delay and considering withdrawing himself from the process, a source told the Times.
The report comes amid a renewed push from House Democrats to see Trump’s tax returns, which he has long resisted disclosing, a break with a tradition dating back decades for presidential candidates.
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley declined to tell the newspaper about the specifics of Trump and McConnell’s discussion.
“Democrats have obstructed and delayed a record number of President Trump’s well-qualified nominees, so it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that he regularly communicates with Majority Leader McConnell about how to increase confirmations in the face of Democrats’ ridiculous behavior,” Gidley said.
McConnell’s spokesman, David Popp, declined to comment to the Times.
White House aides had also been insisting for months that the confirmation of Desmond was a top priority after the 2017 Republican tax bill was passed, the newspaper reported.
The Senate did not act on Trump’s request and took up a vote on Barr’s nomination before Desmond, the Times noted. Desmond was confirmed, 83-15, on February 27.
Desmond had briefly advised the Trump Organization on a tax question before Trump took office, Bloomberg reported in July. A spokesman for Desmond told Bloomberg that Desmond had assisted with “a discrete reporting matter for a subsidiary company that was resolved with no tax impact” and disclosed his work to the Senate.
Trump made his request to McConnell, according to the Times, when Democrats took control of the House and made clear their intentions to try and obtain the President’s tax returns.
Trump bucked tradition during the presidential campaign by refusing to release his tax returns claiming he’s been under audit by the IRS, a statement he’s repeated since taking office.
Democrats’ first piece of legislation in January, HR 1, includes a requirement that presidential candidates release 10 years of tax returns. The bill passed the House in March but the bill won’t be taken up in the Senate.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal formally requested Trump’s tax returns from the IRS on Wednesday.
Trump said late Wednesday that he wouldn’t be inclined to provide his tax returns to Congress until he was no longer under audit.