History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Team Trump: Americans will not see the president’s tax returns

When a politician and his team change their story, it’s usually evidence of a problem. Take Donald Trump and his tax returns, for example.

As recently as May, the then-candidate said that he’d “like to” disclose the tax documents, “hopefully before the election,” but his campaign never followed through. Initially, Team Trump said the decision was the result of an audit, which may nor may not exist. Soon after, the defense for secrecy evolved to include odd claims about the returns detracting from Trump’s message and arguments about the materials’ complexity.

Of course, that was before Election Day, when Trump and his team were clearly afraid the information on his tax returns would hurt his chances of success, making him the first major-party nominee since Watergate to insist on unexplained secrecy. How about now that he’s actually the president?
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, said Sunday that the president would not be releasing his tax returns, reversing months of repeated campaign-trail promises to do so after an audit is completed.

Conway’s comments came in response to a Whitehouse.gov petition with more than 200,000 signatures calling on Trump to release his tax returns. Any petition on the site that receives 100,000 signatures in 30 days receives a response from the White House; this petition reached twice that in two days.

“The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” Conway said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
Conway added, “We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care.”

There’s ample evidence to the contrary.

As of this morning, the petition on the White House’s website on this issue has over 250,000 signatures – well above the 100,000 signatures required for an official response.

What’s more, several recent national polls show that most Americans continue to believe the president should stop hiding the documents.

We know people do care, just as we know the White House is indifferent to the public’s attitudes. The secrets Team Trump is hiding must be awfully important.

Postscript: I’d remind the new West Wing team that plenty of things get litigated during a campaign, but receive post-election follow-up. For example, right-wing conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birthplace arose in 2008. Most voters didn’t care, but Obama nevertheless released his long-form birth certificate during his first term.

Perhaps Trump remembers hearing something about this.

Second Postscript: If it turns out Trump wasn’t facing an IRS audit, and he simply lied his way through 2016, how big a scandal would it deserve to be?