The Slatest

It’s Official: Audit Was Just an Excuse; Trump Is Never Releasing Tax Returns

President Donald Trump reacts as he leaves with Vice President Mike Pence after a swearing-in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington on Sunday.

Carlos Barria/Reuters

Just in case there were any doubts, President Donald Trump won’t be releasing his tax returns, even after the frequently cited audit is complete. “The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, during an appearance on ABC’s This Week. “We litigated this all through the election.”

Throughout the campaign, Trump had vowed to release his tax returns once an audit was complete despite the fact that the IRS had clearly said an audit doesn’t prevent anyone from releasing his or her own returns. Here’s video of Trump saying during a presidential debate that “as soon as the audit is finished it will be released.”

The president seemed to once again push this argument at his news conference earlier this month when he said, “I’m not releasing the tax returns because, as you know, they’re under audit.”

Now there seems to have been a change of heart.

Why won’t Trump release the returns? The American public just isn’t interested and showed as much by voting for Trump. “People didn’t care,” Conway added. “They voted for him, and let me make this very clear: Most Americans are—are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.”

Trump had made much the same point in his Jan. 11 news conference, saying that only reporters cared about the returns. Yet a Washington Post–ABC poll revealed this month that almost two-thirds of Americans want the documents to be made public. Although presidents aren’t required by law to release their returns, every president since Richard Nixon has done so voluntarily.

The issue came up because ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Conway about a petition posted on the White House website demanding the release of Trump’s tax returns. The petition was posted on Friday and has garnered more than 220,000 signatures. Petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures are supposed to get an official response from the White House.

One group that is none too happy with Trump’s decision? WikiLeaks, which described Trump’s “breach of promise” as “even more gratuitous than Clinton concealing her Goldman Sachs transcripts.” The group called on someone to leak the documents so they can see the light of day.