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Trump Still Has No Plans to Release Returns Despite Protests

Posted on April 18, 2017 by David van den Berg

Following April 15 protests in Washington and around the country demanding the release of President Trump’s tax returns, White House press secretary Sean Spicer reiterated the administration's position on the issue.

Spicer said April 17 that Trump’s returns remain under audit and “nothing has changed.” When pressed on whether Trump would ever release his tax returns, Spicer said, “We’ll have to get back to you on that.”

Trump is the first president since Gerald Ford to not voluntarily release any of his tax returns. During the presidential campaign, Trump said he would release his returns once audits of them were complete, but he has also repeatedly insisted that voters don’t care about his returns.

More than 25,000 people attended the Washington edition of the nationwide Tax March and rally, according to organizer estimates. A spokesman for the march said before the event that thousands were expected.

Trump took to Twitter the day after the nationwide tax marches to rip into the events, saying, “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!” Trump also questioned why his tax returns were brought up after he easily won the electoral college.

Tying Tax Returns to Tax Reform

The march in Washington featured a rally at the Capitol, at which three lawmakers and an array of other speakers demanded the release of Trump’s returns and a more equitable tax system.

“Disclosing tax returns is the very lowest ethical bar for a president, and we are going to insist that you clear it,” Senate Finance Committee ranking minority member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said. “While all those working families are trying to finish their returns they have . . . a basic right to know whether the president pays his fair share.”

Wyden introduced the Presidential Tax Transparency Act (S. 26) earlier this year to require sitting presidents and presidential candidates from major parties to release their tax returns. House Democrats have also been pushing for disclosure of Trump's tax returns, introducing a discharge petition that would require a vote on the House companion to Wyden's bill (H.R. 305) and pushing for votes on the House floor and at committee markups on resolutions to require that Trump's returns be turned over to Congress. Those efforts have so far garnered almost no Republican support.

“President Trump has tossed this great American tradition in the trash can like a teenager trying to hide a lousy report card,” Wyden said.

Wyden and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., connected Trump’s call for tax reform to the issue of his returns. Wyden echoed recent remarks from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., in arguing that any reform plan coming from Trump must show he’s working in the American people’s interests and not his own, and Raskin sent the president a similar message.

“We cannot debate tax policy in America, Mr. President, unless we know what personal, family, and business interests are motivating and defining your proposals,” Raskin said. “Is there anyone left in America -- Democrat, Republican, independent -- who thinks that President Trump would propose a tax reform that would hurt his own business interests? If you believe that, you are too innocent to be let out of the house by yourself.”

Remarks at the rally weren’t limited to Trump’s returns. Wyden also called for an end to “business-as-usual taxation, where the nurse and the cop has their taxes taken right out of their wage and the highfliers get to pay what they want, when they want.”

Wyden wasn’t alone.

“The people of our great country are being cheated out of the fruits of our democracy,” said Heather C. McGhee, president of Demos, a left-leaning think tank. “We are fed up with billionaires bragging that they pay next to nothing in taxes. We’re fed up with Fortune 500 companies paying their lobbyists more than they pay every year in taxes. And you better believe that we’re fed up with our families and our neighbors getting stuck with the bill and still being told there’s not enough money to fix the pipes in Flint.”

FOIA Suit

On the same day as the tax march, the Electronic Privacy Information Center also called for the release of Trump’s returns by filing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in Washington. In the suit, the organization wrote that “the public interest in disclosure of this information could not be greater.”

“There is a widespread concern that the President’s private financial interests may conflict with the national interests of the United States,” Marc Rotenberg, the center’s president, said in an April 15 release. “There is a related concern that candidate Trump may have business relations with the Russian government that aided his presidential campaign.”

There is no way to resolve these disputes, including ongoing concerns about the fairness and integrity of tax administration, without the release of Trump’s returns, Rotenberg added.

Jonathan Curry contributed to this article.