During the campaign last year, Donald Trump stated he would release his personal tax returns as soon as the IRS was finished conducting their “routine audit.”
He went on Fox News and said so as recently as this past September, as noted by CNN:
“Just so you understand I’m under audit. A routine audit. And when the audits complete I’ll release my return,” Trump reiterated Tuesday on Fox News.
But now, President-elect Trump seems to be signaling that he intends to back out of this promise. During this past Wednesday’s press conference, Trump stated he now has no intention of releasing his tax returns because, as he sees it, the only ones who care about his taxes are reporters and members of the (presumably, in his eyes, crooked and dishonest) media.
You can read the full transcript of the press conference here, but I’ve included the relevant portion below:
Reporter: Do you believe the hacking was justified and will you release your tax returns to prove what you’re saying about no deals in Russia?
Well, I’m not releasing the tax returns, because as you know, they’re under audit.
Reporter: But every president since the ’70s has —
Gee, I’ve never heard that. I’ve never heard that before. You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK?
Reporter: You don’t think the American public is concerned about that?
No, I don’t think so. I won. I mean, I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all.
The problem for Mr. Trump, however, is that, well, he is wrong. Members of the public do care. In fact, a majority care.
Take, for instance, the findings from the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, which was conducted January 4-9 among 1,502 adults:
While Trump has yet to release his personal tax returns, the public thinks that he has a responsibility to do so: 60% say this, compared with 33% who say he does not have a responsibility to release his tax returns (emphasis mine). By 79% to 17%, more Democrats and Democratic leaners say Trump has a responsibility to release his tax returns than say he does not. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, 38% say he has a responsibility to do this, compared with 53% who say he does not have this responsibility.
Although there is a partisan split on the issue, it seems quite clear that most Americans, in general, believe Mr. Trump should releases his taxes, just as every President and major Presidential candidate has done since Gerald Ford in 1976.
Because as Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) explains, writing in the New York Times:
Without these returns, Americans cannot know whether he is using the presidency to enrich himself and his family. Americans won’t know whether a policy he proposes primarily benefits steelworkers in Pennsylvania or lines his own pocket.
They will also be unable to tell whether Mr. Trump is telling the truth when he claims to have no connections to Russia, contradicting public evidence and statements by his own son.
But then again, who’s to say we should believe the results of a carefully designed scientific survey over the opinion of one man, even if he is the President-elect. After all, maybe most of the Pew survey respondents were reporters.*
*Note: They weren’t.
Brian Kurilla is a psychological scientist with a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology. You can follow Brian on Twitter @briankurilla