TODD: On October 17th, Donald Trump had to turn in his tax return this year. Is he going to release it to the public before the election?PENCE: I think as soon as the audit is completed Donald Trump will release--TODD: There's no audit on this return. They don't make those decisions that fast.PENCE: He'll release all of his tax returns when the final audit is completed.TODD: All right, so not before the election?PENCE: Yeah.
ABC News' Matthew Dowd, a former chief strategist for George W. Bush, lamented over the weekend, "I find it amazing that we are ten days out and a major candidate for President didn't release his tax returns. And no one seems to care."I too find it amazing, but I'm not sure "no one" cares about the development.There was always some hope that Donald Trump and his team would change their minds and choose a more responsible course. Just because the Republican nominee hasn't kept his word and honored U.S. traditions doesn't mean he won't. Clearly, throughout the campaign, the GOP candidate has resisted disclosure and been hostile towards transparency, but there was still time for Trump to do what every other modern candidate has done. After all, as recently as mid-May, the candidate said that he'd "like to" disclose the tax documents, "hopefully before the election,"Yesterday, however, Trump's team said it's time to give up and stop waiting. Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, made matters clear to NBC News' Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" yesterday.
Around the same time on ABC's "This Week," Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager, said something similar, once again arguing that the materials -- including the returns that aren't under audit -- can't be disclosed because "we're under audit."For the record, no one outside Team Trump and the IRS knows for sure that such an audit exists, and the campaign has offered no proof to substantiate the excuse. What's more, even if Trump is under audit, he can still release his tax returns, but he's refused to do so.And he'll continue to refuse until, at the earliest. Election Day has passed.That, evidently, is that. Since Watergate, every presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, has released his or her tax returns, and Trump will now create a new standard. Will the norms be repaired after Election Day or has Trump proven that major-party nominees can now get away with tax-return secrecy?Postscript: Kellyanne Conway continues to stress the importance of "disclosure" and "transparency" in the election, unaware of the irony.