President Trump’s top aides announce that he won’t release his tax returns, claiming voters don’t care about the issue.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Kellyanne Conway said “The White House response is he’s not going to release his tax returns.”
“We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care,” Conway added.
Conway’s discussion of the President’s tax returns departed from Trump’s earlier statements, where he suggested willingness to release his returns, if he was not currently under audit by the IRS.
In September, after then-vice presidential candidate Mike Pence released his own tax returns, Pence’s spokesman noted, “These returns are being released with the full support of Mr. Trump who plans to release his tax returns upon completion of a routine audit.”
During his Jan. 11th press conference, Trump stated, “I’m not releasing the tax returns because, as you know, they’re under audit.”
Then he added, “You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only ones … I won. I mean, I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all. I think you care.”
An ABC News/Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this month indicated that 74 percent of Americans want Trump to release his tax returns, including 49 percent of his own supporters.
In addition, about 217,000 people had signed an online petition calling for the returns to be released as of mid-afternoon Sunday.
While American presidents are not required to release tax returns, they have all done so since the 1970s, in an act of transparency. Trump’s refusal to comply with the custom so has been a constant point of criticism by those who say his domestic and foreign financial ties should be scrutinized more carefully.
Earlier this month, former ethics adviser to President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, made the following statement in an interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air”: “The president-elect did not release his tax returns. Every other candidate for president has released his tax returns, but he didn’t want to. And he apparently won’t, and we just have no idea where the financing is coming from for all these companies he owns all over the world, all these interests.”
In a follow up interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press”, senior advisor Conway repeatedly clashed with host Chuck Todd over the number of attendees at Friday’s inauguration, saying the difference between media and White House was a matter of “alternative facts.”
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” she said.
Conway also pushed back hard against suggestions that Spicer had deliberately misrepresented crowd size, telling Todd, “… if we’re going to keep referring to our press secretary in those types of terms, I think that we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here.”
The Conway interview came one day after Trump tore into the media over reports about the size of crowds that showed up for his swearing-in, saying journalists are “among the most dishonest people on earth.”
During a visit to the CIA, Trump claimed that as many as 1.5 million people were in attendance for the inauguration, and Spicer later added that it was “the largest to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”
While Trump himself had offered an estimate of crowd size, Conway argued it wasn’t possible to tally the number of attendees, saying, “I don’t think you can prove those numbers one way or another. There’s no way to quantify crowd numbers.”
That echoed comments made by Spicer himself, who said the National Park Service no longer gives official estimates of crowd size. However, he then went on to give detailed estimates of the crowd size.