US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin prepares to testify on "The President
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin prepares to testify on "The President's FY2020 Budget Proposal" before the House Ways and Means Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 14, 2019. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:40
Mnuchin denies request for Trump's tax returns
Now playing
01:49
Biden signs executive actions addressing climate crisis
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 01: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) attends a press conference announcing Senate Republicans
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 01: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) attends a press conference announcing Senate Republicans' opposition to D.C. statehood on Capitol Hill July 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives voted on Friday to recognize the District of Columbia as the 51st state. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Now playing
09:36
Sen. Cotton accused of mischaracterizing his military service
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
03:07
Why major corporate donors halted funding to GOP
DALLAS, GA - OCTOBER 15: Georgia Republican House candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene endorses Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) during a press conference on October 15, 2020 in Dallas, Georgia. Greene has been the subject of some controversy recently due to her support for the right-wing conspiracy group QAnon. (Photo by Dustin Chambers/Getty Images)
DALLAS, GA - OCTOBER 15: Georgia Republican House candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene endorses Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) during a press conference on October 15, 2020 in Dallas, Georgia. Greene has been the subject of some controversy recently due to her support for the right-wing conspiracy group QAnon. (Photo by Dustin Chambers/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Dustin Chambers/Getty Images
Now playing
03:01
GOP congresswoman indicated support for executing Democrats before running for Congress
Bill Currier Oregon GOP Lah vpx
Bill Currier Oregon GOP Lah vpx
PHOTO: Oregon Republican Party
Now playing
02:49
Oregon GOP falsely claims Capitol riot was a 'false flag'
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Now playing
02:38
Acting Capitol Police chief says they 'failed' during riot
TOPSHOT - US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021. - US President Joe Biden signed a raft of executive orders to launch his administration, including a decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord. The orders were aimed at reversing decisions by his predecessor, reversing the process of leaving the World Health Organization, ending the ban on entries from mostly Muslim-majority countries, bolstering environmental protections and strengthening the fight against Covid-19. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021. - US President Joe Biden signed a raft of executive orders to launch his administration, including a decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord. The orders were aimed at reversing decisions by his predecessor, reversing the process of leaving the World Health Organization, ending the ban on entries from mostly Muslim-majority countries, bolstering environmental protections and strengthening the fight against Covid-19. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: JIM WATSON/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
03:40
Weir: Biden promised to help avoid fossil-fuel suicide
US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), R-KY, speaks with US Senator John Barrasso (R), R-WY, after the Republican Policy Luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 26, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), R-KY, speaks with US Senator John Barrasso (R), R-WY, after the Republican Policy Luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 26, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: JIM WATSON/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Now playing
03:12
CNN breaks down McConnell's telling vote on impeachment trial
duckworth paul
duckworth paul
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:19
Tammy Duckworth to Rand Paul: Stop covering for Trump
PHOTO: senate tv
Now playing
03:53
Watch senators sworn in for Trump's second impeachment trial
Now playing
04:32
'Haven't ruled anybody out': Dominion lawyer on possible lawsuits
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: President Donald Trump arrives at the "Stop The Steal" Rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: President Donald Trump arrives at the "Stop The Steal" Rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
03:00
Haberman reveals list of Republicans Trump wants to 'punish'
PHOTO: Getty Image/CNN
Now playing
02:10
'Really?': Lemon reacts to Haley's take on Trump's trial
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Rudy Giuliani holds up a mail-in ballot as he speaks to the press about various lawsuits related to the 2020 election,  inside the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump, who has not been seen publicly in several days, continues to push baseless claims about election fraud and dispute the results of the 2020 United States presidential election. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Rudy Giuliani holds up a mail-in ballot as he speaks to the press about various lawsuits related to the 2020 election, inside the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump, who has not been seen publicly in several days, continues to push baseless claims about election fraud and dispute the results of the 2020 United States presidential election. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
02:30
Dominion contemplates next legal move after Giuliani lawsuit
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks before signing an Executive Order in the South Court Auditorium at the White House on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks before signing an Executive Order in the South Court Auditorium at the White House on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:50
Biden thinks US can get to 1.5 million vaccine doses daily
(CNN) —  

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has issued subpoenas for President Donald Trump’s tax returns, the committee told CNN on Friday, an escalation in the fight for the President’s personal financial records and the latest step this week in Democrats’ battle for information from the Trump administration.

Neal sent subpoenas to both IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. A Treasury spokesman confirmed to CNN it has received Neal’s subpoena request.

Neal, who has unilateral subpoena power, took the step days after the Treasury Department formally denied Neal’s request for six years of the President’s personal and business tax returns earlier this week.

While Neal did not need a subpoena to eventually move to court, he issued the subpoenas on the advice of House counsel whom he consulted throughout the process about how to build the strongest legal case.

Unlike other requests for information coming from House Democrats, Neal is relying on a decades-old tax statute – 6103 – that says that the House Ways and Means chairman, Senate Finance Committee chairman or chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation can request any individual’s tax information in the course of their legislative business. Democrats have argued under that statute they have the ability to request Trump’s tax returns even without a subpoena, but internal deliberations got Neal to the point where the advice was that a subpoena could bolster the case in court. The Democrats on Neal’s committee have argued that they need access to the President’s tax returns in order to understand how the IRS administers the presidential audit program even as Republicans and the Treasury Department have argued it is not a legitimate legislative purpose.

“After consulting with the Justice Department, the Treasury Department has come to the firm conclusion that we have known since day one: this request from House Democrats to weaponize the tax code for purely political reasons is illegitimate and should be treated as such,” Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement this week.

Neal’s move is expected to eventually be followed by action to go to court, a process that could take months or even years.

Neal – a Massachusetts Democrat who has waited years to hold the gavel of House Ways and Means and is invested in making policy reforms that would cement a legacy beyond the tax fight – was an unlikely figure to lead the charge for the President’s closely-held financial information. While Neal has said from the outset that he planned to request Trump’s tax returns, the fight has forced a business-minded and pragmatic Democrat to be a face of opposition to Trump even as Neal has worked hard behind the scenes to foster relationships with the Treasury secretary and the President himself to lay the groundwork for infrastructure negotiations moving forward.

Neal’s measured approach has – at times – frustrated those on his committee who wished he’d taken a more aggressive stance in his fight for the tax returns. Some on the committee like Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a liberal Democrat from Texas, have argued that if they were in Neal’s position, they would hold Mnuchin in contempt of Congress if he refuses to hand over the tax returns, a step that is unlikely to happen with Neal at the helm of the committee. Doggett argued he also would have moved the process forward more quickly.

“I think knowing what we know now and looking back on it, it would have been better to move earlier,” Doggett said. “The President has made it clear that he doesn’t intend to provide any documents.”

Others have argued that Neal’s approach has been the right one, saying he has been carefully building a case that could survive the scrutiny of the courts at a time when Democrats may have to bring multiple cases at once to get information from the Trump administration. Democrats are expected to move ahead with litigation to get the full, unredacted Mueller report and may have to legally advance other issues in order to enforce subpoenas from the committees.

Now, the fight for Trump’s taxes will largely move out of Neal’s hands.

In upcoming days – if the Treasury Department or IRS defy the subpoenas – the House counsel would ask the speaker of the House to authorize court action. Then, the speaker has the options of either having a full House vote or what is more likely, ask the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to approve legal action. The group is made up of three Democrats and two Republicans meaning that Democrats can authorize any legal action they want through a vote of the group.

Unlike subpoena fights between the executive branch and legislative branch that have gone to court over the last decade or so, fights over IRS statute 6103 are untested in the courts. The law, which says the House Ways and Means chairman, Senate Finance chairman and the chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation all can ask for information on individual taxpayers and the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” it, have never been challenged before.

This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.