The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care, they voted for him.
Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway now says Trump will never release his tax returns, despite promises dating back to 2011 and numerous polls showing a vested interest and concern among the majority of Americans. Every major party presidential nominee since the late 1970s has released their tax returns before Election Day.
A White House petition posted on Friday demanding Trump’s tax returns be released has already reached 200,000 signatures. Only 100,000 signatures are needed to warrant an official White House response.
And what was that response?
“The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” Trump’s senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway said Sunday on ABC’s This Week. “We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care, they voted for him.” she added.
Multiple public opinion polls show that the majority of Americans want Trump to release his tax returns.
- 74% of Americans do, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll (1/16/17)
- 60% of Americans do, according to a Pew Research study (1/10/17)
- 52% of Americans do, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (9/21/17)
- 60% of voters do, according to a Fox News poll (9/7/16)
- 74% of Americans (and 62% Republicans) do, according to Quinnipiac University study (8/25/16)
- 67% of US voters do, according to a national Rasmussen survey (August 2016)
- 67% of Americans (and 60% of Republicans) do, according to a national survey by Morning Consult (May 2016)
Yet Trump himself and his aides claim that only reporters and the media are interested in the tax returns
“This is an issue the media is interested in. This isn’t an issue that middle America is interested in,” Trump aide Paul Manafort said on CNN’s “State of the Union” said in May 2016.
“You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, okay? They’re the only ones,” Trump said during a January 11, 2017 press conference, saying he thought the American public isn’t concerned about it. “I won; I mean, I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all. I think you care.”
But Trump has repeatedly been promising to release his tax returns since 2011
“Maybe I’m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate,” Trump said in an April 18, 2011, interview with ABC. “I may tie my tax returns, I’d love to give my tax returns, I may tie my tax returns into Obama’s birth certificate.”
But when the White House released Obama’s birth certificate a week later, Trump told ABC he would fulfill his pledge and release his tax records “at the appropriate time.”
“If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely and I would love to do that,” Trump said in a May 2014 interview with TV3’s Colette Fitzpatrick in Ireland.
“I have no objection to showing any tax return,” Trump said in a February 2015 interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“Will you release any of your tax returns for the public to scrutinize?” NBC’s Chuck Todd asked Trump in January 2016.
“Well, we’re working on that now. I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time, Chuck. Absolutely,” Trump replied.
A few weeks later, Trump told the Today Show in February 2016 that he’ll release his tax returns “probably over the next few months.”
In September of 2016, after Mike Pence released 10 years of his own tax returns his spokesman said at the time, “These returns are being released with the full support of Mr. Trump who plans to release his tax returns upon completion of a routine audit.”
Despite repeated claims that Trump cannot release his tax returns while under audit, the IRS has said that being under audit does not bar a person from releasing his or her tax information.
Why this matters
While there is no law requiring any presidential candidate to release their tax returns, it is a gesture of transparency that is part of a tradition going back decades. Every major party nominee since the late 1970s has released tax returns before Election Day. The Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit group focused on government transparency says that tax returns can provide important insight into a candidate’s values and to shed light on their potential conflicts of interest.
“There is a reason why banks use tax returns when evaluating mortgages: the forms offer a snapshot of a person’s financial position and their financial decision making processes,” the Foundation wrote in July.
The Tax History project director also says that beyond an effective tax rate, “[r]eturns can shed light on the way a candidate lives his life. It can tell us about charitable giving as well as personal borrowing and investment activity. Returns can also illuminate the complicated business arrangements that often provide the bulk of a candidate’s income, especially for a real estate mogul like Trump.”
On May 11, former 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney posted a message to Facebook calling Trump’s refusal to release tax returns “disqualifying.”
There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them. Given Mr. Trump’s equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it’s a bombshell of unusual size.
- TIME Magazine