In the modern era, major-party presidential nominees are expected to make certain disclosures, just as a matter of course. Candidates for the nation’s highest office are expected to release information related to their personal health and public scrutiny of candidates’ tax returns is a given.
In December, Donald Trump more or less met the first of these two tests. His campaign released an unintentionally hilarious letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein, who claimed he’s been Trump’s personal physician since 1980. The physician insisted the Republican candidate’s “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary” and his recent lab tests results were “astonishingly excellent.” Bornstein added, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
And what of this fine physical specimen’s tax returns? The Associated Press reported this morning:
Despite pressure, the billionaire also doesn’t expect to release his tax returns before November, citing an ongoing audit of his finances. He said he will release them after the audit ends. But he said that he wouldn’t overrule his lawyers and instruct them to release his returns if the audit hasn’t concluded by November.“There’s nothing to learn from them,” Trump told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. He also has said he doesn’t believe voters are interested.
I can’t speak to what voters may or may not find interesting, but if the AP report is correct, it appears Trump will be the first major-party nominee in the modern era to simply refuse to disclose his tax returns. Mitt Romney spent months delaying disclosure and making excuses, but in his 2012 race, even he eventually released his 2011 returns and a topline summary, including his effective tax rate, for the previous 20 years.
Trump, in contrast, is prepared to move forward with no disclosure in this area at all, prompting all kinds of questions about what, exactly, the Republican may be hiding from the public. Is he far less wealthy than he claims to be? Has most of his income come by way of television, rather than the purported success of his business?
We could know the answers – even if Trump is telling the truth about being audited, there’s nothing stopping him from releasing these materials – but according to the GOP candidate, we won’t.
It’ll be interesting to see whether or not the media gets tired of asking for the materials Trump doesn’t want to share, or if this will become a major issue in the fall.
Postscript: In case anyone’s wondering about whether Hillary Clinton has been more forthcoming in this area, the Democratic frontrunner released the last eight years’ worth of returns as her campaign got underway, and has made her returns public for every year dating back to 1977.