Update 16 January 2017: ABC poll shows that three-quarters of American adults think Trump should release his tax returns.
In his first press conference since last summer, president-elect Donald Trump said he would not release his tax returns and that Americans weren’t interested anyway.
TRUMP: I’m not releasing the tax returns because as you know, they’re under audit….You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only who ask.
QUESTION: You don’t think the American public is concerned about it?
TRUMP: No I don’t think so. I won, when I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all.
This is certainly not the first time that Trump has misspoken. Nor is it the first time his campaign has claimed that only reporters care.
“This is an issue the media is interested in. This isn’t an issue that middle America is interested in,” Trump aide Paul Manafort said on CNN’s “State of the Union” earlier this month (May 2016).
Not only is Trump is the first modern presidential candidate to refuse to disclose, a majority of all Americans still want to see his tax returns. Since early last year, Americans have consistently told pollsters (when asked) that they wanted to see his returns.
- 74% of American adults says Trump should release his tax returns, ABC News/Washington Post, January 16, 2017
- 60% of the American public says Trump has a “responsibility” to release his tax returns, Pew Research, January 10, 2017
- 74% of American registered voters think Trump should release his tax returns, Quinnipiac Poll, August 25, 2016
- 67% of American registered voters think presidential candidates should release their tax returns, Morning Consult, May 24, 2016
Moreover, theJanuary 16 poll summary suggests that the tax return issue is not a partisan one:
In one key support group for Trump, non-college-educated white men, 58 percent say he should release the tax returns; that rises to 81 percent of college-educated white women and 88 percent of nonwhites. By another measure, 69 percent in the red states – those Trump won – say he should release these records, as do 81 percent in Clinton’s blue states.
Commit then backtrack
Trump has been on the record from 2014 that he would disclose his tax returns. Plus, he thought Mitt Romney should do it in 2012:
TRUMP: I think Mitt was hurt really very badly by this whole thing with the income tax returns. I believe he should have given them April 1, but I didn’t think going into a little bit of detail without going into a lot of detail was positive thing. January 18, 2012, FOX News
ANOTHER TRUMP BROKEN PROMISE: Donald Trump promised he would disclose his tax returns 31 months ago. That's right. 31 months! pic.twitter.com/EoG1BabcsO
— Tea Pain (@TeaPainUSA) January 4, 2017
From February 2015, while talking with Hugh Hewitt:
TRUMP: I would release tax returns, and I would also explain to people that as a person that’s looking to make money … if I won, I would make money for our country.
By October 2015, Trump was dancing the quid pro quo in this ABC interview:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Getting any closer to releasing your tax returns?
TRUMP: Well, I’m thinking about it. I’m thinking about maybe when we find out the true story on Hillary’s emails…
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your tax rate?
TRUMP: I’m not going to say it, but at some point I’ll release it.
On February 10, 2016, in an interview with NBC, he told us: they’re coming, they’re coming:
LAUER: Real quickly. When are you going to release your tax returns?
TRUMP: Probably over the next few months. They’re being worked on now.
LAUER: What’s the hold up?
TRUMP: They’re very — well, it’s the very big tax returns. The biggest, I guarantee you this, the biggest ever in the history of what we’re doing. So, it’s very complicated stuff. But we’ll be releasing that.
But two weeks later, that tune began to change. Once again, Hugh Hewitt:
HH: First of all, when do we get tax returns, Donald Trump, because Mitt Romney got killed on this four years ago…
DT: Well, we’ll get them out at some point, probably…But my returns are among the largest. I’m audited all the time by government. And I think every single year, I’ve had an audit for years. And you know, other people, friends of mine say they never get audited. I say congratulations. I have audits every year. So it’s, you know, one of those things. But we are working. They’re very complex papers, but we’re working on it.
The back-track is complete during the CNN-Telemundo Republican debate on February 25, 2016 with moderator Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: Mr. Trump, yesterday, the last Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, called on you to release your back tax returns, and said, and I’m quoting him now, “there is good reason to believe there is a bombshell in them.” […]
TRUMP: All right. First of all, let me just explain. I was the first one to file a financial disclosure form — almost 100 pages. You don’t learn anything about somebody’s wealth with a tax return. [Politifact: not true] You learn it from statements…
As far as my return, I want to file it, except for many years, I’ve been audited every year. [False, and Nixon released his while under audit.] Twelve years, or something like that. Every year they audit me, audit me, audit me…
I will absolutely give my return, but I’m being audited now for two or three years, so I can’t do it until the audit is finished, obviously.
So there you have it. From affirmation to stalling to denial. A pattern that is not new and is certain to be repeated.