US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he would shield President Donald Trump's tax returns from Congress, signalling the administration's approach to an expected request from congressional Democrats.
Mnuchin told the House of Representatives tax committee during testimony that he would follow the law upon receiving a request for tax returns but would also protect Trump's privacy rights.
Committee Chairman Richard Neal, the only member of the House authorised by law to request the president's returns, is expected to ask Mnuchin for the documents. Neal's committee could seek both his personal and business returns.
Democrats view the documents as a potential lynchpin for oversight investigations, saying they would show whether the president has complied with US tax law, profited from his own tax cuts, or has conflicts of interest from his vast business holdings.
Trump defied decades of precedent as a presidential candidate by refusing to release his tax documents and has continued to keep them under wraps as president, saying his returns were under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS has said that Trump can release his tax returns even while under audit.
Interest in Trump's returns has soared since his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen told a House panel on February 27 that the president has altered his value of assets and slashed the wages of his employees to lower his tax bills.
But requesting the tax returns of a sitting president is unprecedented.
Fearing a lengthy court battle for the documents, Neal's committee has spent months working to develop a winning legal argument that could base the quest firmly within the panel's jurisdiction to oversee the US tax system.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is also expected to seek Trump's taxes if Democrats obtain them.
'There's an awful lot of interest in 6103 today,' Mnuchin said.
He said he would not speculate on a specific strategy for handling a request from lawmakers because he has not yet received one.