In the latest twist to President Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, he speculated in a new interview that he might publicize them after he leaves office, seemingly undercutting his long-stated reason that he is unable to release them because he is under audit.
During the interview, published Thursday by the Economist, the magazine asked Trump a if he would consider releasing his tax returns in exchange for Democratic support for his tax reform plan. Maintaining that “nobody cares” about his tax returns “except for the reporters,” Trump floated the possibility he would release them after his presidency ends.
“Maybe I’ll release them after I’m finished because I’m very proud of them, actually,” Trump said. “I did a good job.”
The White House’s official reason for Trump not releasing his tax returns is that he’s under a years-long audit, which is also the reason the candidate gave during the campaign. An IRS rule mandates presidents are audited every year, and previous presidents have released their returns anyway.
Before Trump, all major party nominees in modern political history have also released their tax returns, and the celebrity businessman-turned-political candidate initially indicated he would follow precedent before reversing himself.
In the Economist interview, Hope Hicks, the White House director of strategic communication, jumped into the conversation to reinforce Trump’s stated reason for not releasing his returns.
“Once the audit is over,” she added, after Trump’s quip about releasing the documents after his presidency is finished.
Then Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin piped up, attempting to veer the conversation back to Democratic support of the White House tax plan. But the president cut in, returning to the subject of his tax returns.
“By the way, so as you know I’m under routine audit, so they’re not going to be done,” Trump said. “But you know, at a certain point, that’s something I will consider. But I would never consider it as part of a deal.”
Repeating his assertion that his tax returns are important only to journalists, the interviewer pressed Trump, pointing out the Democratic lawmakers have also called for their release. (They argue that the documents are needed to see Trump’s potential conflicts of interest abroad. Polls also show that the public broadly supports the disclosure.)
“Well, don’t forget I got elected without it,” Trump said. “Somebody said, ‘Oh, but you have to do it.’ I said, ‘Look where I am.’”
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