Donald Trump doesn’t want you to see his tax returns, precisely for the reason you think: because they would be a political liability. This is according to three sources close to Trump: two of his sons and the candidate himself.
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Wednesday, Donald Trump Jr. conceded that Trump’s motivation for not releasing those returns was pure political calculus. This follows comments by his brother and his father that indicate likewise.
The Tribune-Review reports:
When asked why his father has not released his tax returns as presidential candidates have traditionally done, Trump Jr. said, “Because he’s got a 12,000-page tax return that would create … financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would detract from (his father’s) main message.”
Trump’s stated reason for not releasing his tax returns—that he can’t release them because he’s undergoing an audit by the Internal Revenue Service—has always been a flimsy excuse. In reality, the IRS commissioner himself has said that an audit wouldn’t prevent anyone from releasing his or her taxes, while President Richard Nixon once released his tax returns while under audit proving that it’s possible to do so for even the top politicians in the country.
In February, Trump declared that he wanted to release his returns, but he could not do so because he had been under audit for a number of years. This came a month after Trump said his team was “working on” releasing the returns. “I have 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,” Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd at the time.
Since then Trump has pretty much stuck by his line that the audit was the justification for not releasing the returns—again something that was debunked by both the IRS commissioner and presidential history. Except in at least one instance, when he implied to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that releasing those returns would be a political mistake.
“I remember with Mitt Romney four years ago, everybody wanted his, and his is a peanut compared to mine,” Trump said at the time. “By the way, Mitt Romney did nothing wrong. … But when they gave them, they found a couple of little sentences. If you remember Harry Reid lied about it. He told a dirty lie. And Mitt gave that and after he gave it, they found a little sentence and they made such a big deal. He might have lost the election over that.”
And according to the Associated Press, Trump said in May that voters weren’t interested in his tax returns and “there’s nothing to learn from them.”
One of Trump’s other sons, Eric, has also indicated that the motivation behind not releasing the returns is political.
“You would have a bunch of people who know nothing about taxes trying to look through and trying to come up with assumptions on something they know nothing about. It would be foolish to do,” Eric Trump said in an interview with CNBC.
On Wednesday, Vice News announced it was suing the IRS for audits of Trump’s tax returns.