In response to President Donald Trump's statement Thursday that he "may" release his tax returns when he leaves office, opponents said seeing the documents was more important than ever.
Trump has previously claimed that he cannot release the documents while he is being audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which the IRS has said is not true. But in an interview with the Economist published Thursday, the president didn't need any help contradicting himself:
Mr President, can I just try you on a deal-making question? If you do need Democratic support for your tax plan, your ideal tax plan, and the price of that the Democrats say is for you to release your tax returns, would you do that?
I don’t know. That's a very interesting question. I doubt it. I doubt it. Because they're not going to…nobody cares about my tax return except for the reporters. 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.
Hope Hicks [White House director of strategic communication]: Once the audit is over.
President Trump: I might release them after I'm out of office.
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TJ Helmstetter, spokesperson for Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), a campaign to end tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy, said in response to the interview, "Trump has finally given up the bogus notion that imaginary audits prevent him from releasing his taxes—now he says that he won't release them until after he's out of office. Outrageous."
In the midst of the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian election interference and Trump's other recent actions, ATF said seeing the documents is vital to the public.
"With the firing of James Comey and the investigation into Trump's ties to Russia heating up, the tax returns are more important than ever," Helmstetter said. "The public has a right to know what Trump's financial ties to Russia are. The returns will also show us how Trump may personally benefit from the policies he's advancing as president."
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have separately introduced legislation that would force the president to disclose some amount of federal income tax returns. A discharge petition supporting Eshoo's bill has received 190 signatures from lawmakers; if it reaches 218, the bill must be brought to a vote on the House floor.