President Donald Trump admitted in an interview published Thursday that an audit has nothing to do with his failure to release his tax returns.
Asked by The Economist if he would release his taxes if it was central to striking a tax reform deal with the Democrats, the president said: “I doubt it.”
He then went on to admit — either intentionally or perhaps by accident — that an audit of his finances has no bearing on the release of his tax returns.
“Nobody cares about my tax return except for the reporters,” Trump said. “Oh, at some point I’ll release them. Maybe I’ll release them after I’m finished, because I’m very proud of them actually. I did a good job.”
At that point, Hope Hicks, director of strategic communications at the White House, chimed in, telling The Economist that Trump will publish his taxes “once the audit is over.” The president, though, seemed to ignore Hicks’ correction.
“I might release them after I’m out of office,” he said.
On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump broke with long-held tradition, denying to release his tax returns — a tradition in place for the past 40 years. Trump frequently claimed his lawyers advised him against sharing his returns while he was under “routine audit” by the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS has said there is no regulation barring an individual from publishing his or her tax returns while under audit by the agency. In fact, former President Richard Nixon, who started the tradition of elected officials sharing their tax returns, did so in 1973, while he was under audit.
“People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook,” he famously told reporters at the time. “Well, I am not a crook.”
Since the White House has begun pushing for massive tax reform, Democrats have reignited concerns over Trump’s taxes, suggesting the president is hiding something. Many liberal lawmakers are calling on Trump to share his personal taxes to ensure Americans he is not proposing tax reform specifically to benefit his own finances.
There is, of course, no law requiring presidents or presidential candidates to release their tax returns.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last month that if the president doesn’t release his tax returns, “it’s going to make tax reform much harder.”
“I think he just has an obligation to come clean. When you clean up the swamp, it’s not keeping things secret and applies to yourself,” he said, according to the Washington Post.
Later in The Economist interview, Trump seemed to temper his previous suggestion that he’ll release his tax returns once he’s exited the White House.
“By the way, so as you know, I’m under routine audit, so they’re not going to be done,” he 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.”