President Donald Trump offered a bizarre new excuse for not releasing his tax returns as the threat of a Democrat-held House looms after Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Asked about the possibility that Democrats could try and compel Trump to turn over his tax returns, the president offered a new reason to not release the forms: People would be confused by them.
“Look, as I’ve told you, they’re under audit, they’re extremely complex,” Trump said. “People wouldn’t understand them.”
Trump was the first presidential candidate in roughly 40 years to not voluntarily release his tax returns during the campaign, and Republicans made no moves to force Trump to release the returns during the president’s first two years in office.
In addition to the new excuse, Trump relied on a standby response to the tax-return question.
“It’s a very complex instrument and I think that people wouldn’t understand it but if I were finished with the audit, I would have an open mind to it,” he said.
It’s unclear exactly the status of any audit of Trump’s tax returns, but some legal scholars have argued that Congress could still get access to the president’s return even if a review by the Internal Revenue Service is ongoing. Under a section of the tax code, the Treasury Secretary must turn over the tax returns of any American if the forms are requested by the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee.
Rep. Richard Neal, the presumptive Democratic chair of the Ways and Means committee, told CNN that the committee will likely request the returns from the Internal Revenue Service, but it is unclear how long it will take to get them.
Democrats have consistently called on Trump to release his tax returns to ensure that the president is not benefitting from his time in office and that there are no conflicts of interest with Trump’s dealings with foreign governments. But given the party’s minority stance in Congress, they could not compel Trump to release the returns.
But with Democrats set to control the House, the party could attempt to force the president to turn over his returns as part of an investigation into Trump’s business dealings. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told NBC that the returns will be released eventually.
“The American people will see his tax returns, not because of any voyeuristic interest, but because they should know if he’s corrupt,” Swalwell said.
Trump’s returns once again came under scrutiny after a bombshell report from the New York Times that alleged the president and his father, Fred, fraudulently avoided millions of dollars in taxes over three decades.