Steve Mnuchin can go to jail if he violates the law and intervenes on Trump’s taxes: Ex-Treasury Secretary
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin (Screenshot)

Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin would be violating the law if he interfered in the IRS commissioner giving President Donald Trump's tax returns to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA), a previous Treasury Secretary explained on MSNBC's "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell on Monday.

"The president's lawyers have another full day to try to figure out how to defy a very clear and simple law that no one has ever defied," O'Donnell explained. "It is the law that empowers the chairs of the House and Senate tax-writing committees to demand -- not request, demand -- from the IRS any tax return that they want to see."

O'Donnell read from a new Washington Post column written by former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.

"As best I can determine, the appropriate response of the treasury secretary is very clear: Under a long-standing delegation order, the secretary does not get involved in taxpayer-specific matters and has delegated to the IRS commissioner as follows: 'The Commissioner of Internal Revenue shall be responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws,'" he explained.

"Moreover, this is not a delegation that is readily revocable," he continued. "Federal law provides that if the secretary determines not to delegate a power, such determination may not take effect until 30 days after the secretary notifies the tax-writing (and other specified) committees."

"So for the secretary to seek to decide whether to pass on the president’s tax return to Congress would surely be inappropriate and probably illegal," Summers added.

"I did not know that the delegation from the Treasury Secretary to the IRS commissioner on matters of tax issues like this was actually in writing and that it's a formal delegation and there's a formal process for revoking that delegation," O'Donnell noted.

"That's right. You know, it's the first one of the first things my general counsel told me when I became Treasury Secretary, was any individual tax matter affecting any individual taxpayer, you are under no circumstances going to be anywhere near," Summers replied. "And that applies to a request of this kind and for good reason. "