Since Watergate, every presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, has released his or her tax returns. It’s not required by law, but there’s a tradition of disclosure that Americans have come to count on: candidates for the nation’s highest office are expected to release information related to their personal health and their tax filings.
In 2016, Donald Trump will only meet one of the two standards. In December, his campaign released an unintentionally hilarious letter from someone claiming to be Trump’s personal physician. But this morning, the GOP candidate’s campaign chairman said we can pretty much stop waiting for the tax documents – because they’re not coming, tradition be damned.
A top aide to Donald Trump said Wednesday that the Republican presidential nominee “will not be releasing” his taxes.“Mr. Trump has said that his taxes are under audit and he will not be releasing them,” Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort told “CBS This Morning.”
As recently as mid-May, Trump said that he’d “like to” disclose the tax documents, “hopefully before the election,” but he’s waiting for the end of an IRS audit. Manafort’s on-air comments this morning, however, suggest there will be no scrutiny of the documents before voters head to the polls.
As for the “audit” excuse, the fact remains that this rationale has never made any sense: an IRS audit doesn’t preclude someone from sharing their returns.
Indeed, as we’ve discussed before, even Richard Nixon, during his presidency, released his tax materials in the midst of an IRS audit. Trump could, if he wanted to, release these returns whenever he feels like it. For reasons he won’t explain, the GOP candidate just doesn’t want to.
It’s as if the campaign has decided to wave a big, unmistakable sign that reads, “We have something to hide.”
The unfortunate complication here is that there’s probably never been a major-party nominee whose tax returns are more in need of public scrutiny. Donald J. Trump has been caught up in so many financial controversies – his bankruptcies, his lawsuits, his alleged ties to Russian financiers, his dubious claims about charitable work that appear to be brazen lies, et al – that the New York Republican has the added responsibility to tell Americans the whole truth before the cast their ballots in the fall.
But Trump doesn’t want to, and according to his lobbyist campaign chief, “he will not be releasing” the same materials every other candidate has released.
Trump, who had vowed to release his returns before he announced his candidacy, is convinced he can get away with this and voters won’t care. We’re about to find out if he’s correct.