Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s refusal to release President Trump’s income tax returns for the past six years is the latest in a litany of laws the Trump administration has ignored.

In a letter to House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., in response to a subpoena issued last week for release of the president’s income records, the secretary told Neal after consultation with the Department of Justice the administration would be potentially in violation of privacy laws by releasing the documents. 

For his refusal, Mnuchin has earned the dubious distinction of being the first treasury secretary to have a trending hashtag calling for his imprisonment (#LockMnuchinUp). While his incarceration is unlikely, the public call for same may indicate a new low in American faith in those charged to carry out government in their name.

Historically, presidents and candidates for presidents release their tax returns well in advance of congressional requests or subpoenas. Trump, since the beginning of his campaign for the 2016 presidential election, has successfully avoided release of the records but Mnuchin’s refusal to honor a congressional subpoena flies in the face of a 1924 law that allows the Ways and Means Committee to review any and all income records of any citizen.

Mnuchin has claimed the request lacks legislative purpose and as such he is not authorized to release the information. His refusal is unprecedented. In 1924, Congress passed a law that requires “Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request.”

This is the third refusal within a week by the administration and Justice Department to answer subpoenas from congressional committees. The House Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee requested unredacted copies of the Mueller Report, with which Attorney General William Barr has refused to comply. Now Mnuchin is refusing the Ways and Means Committee.

Not since the lead up to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate Hotel break-in and “dirty tricks” campaign to discredit Democratic presidential candidates in the 1972 presidential election has an administration so boldly refused to comply with the rule of law. Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, in advance of impeachment hearings in both congressional chambers, in what has since been considered the hallmark of political treachery involving a president. To be sure, there have been contentious moments between Congress, Justice and the White House in a number of administrations since, but none that so brazenly break with tradition, decorum and law.

The administration’s continued stonewalling sets up a likely series of legal battles, none of which will be settled quickly, and which could distract and disable the nation on many fronts. Some legal experts have argued with recent and potentially near-future changes to the Supreme Court, the longer the administration can prolong litigation, the more likely Trump will benefit from an increasingly conservative high court.

All of these maneuvers squarely place a good deal of pressure on the Democrat-controlled House and Democratic Senate minority. If efforts by Democrats are not seen as responsive, that may further splinter the party, which seems to be tittering between its literally old guard, and a younger, more progressive wing. However, if efforts to compel the administration to comply are unsuccessful, Democrats will be seen as ineffective, and will likely ensure a Trump second term.

While Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has not indicated how the chamber will move forward,  a vote could be taken to authorize House Counsel Douglas Letter to file a lawsuit against the administration. A faster solution toward the same end would be to have House leaders known as the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group vote to authorize the suit.

Both methods to get to litigation will take weeks before lawsuits will reach the courts, according to one Democratic aide.