Trump is the first presidential candidate nominee of any major party, and the first president in 40 years to not release his tax return. Trump first said that he was undergoing an audit and would release the returns once the audit was completed. However, later in his campaign Trump repeatedly insisted that there was nothing to learn from his tax returns, and refused to release them. Now that Trump has taken office, many people are still speculating whether or not he will release his tax returns.
The short answer seems to be that Trump will not do so, unless he is somehow forced to. It should be noted that Trump is under no legal obligation to release his tax returns. Although the move does break with 40 years of precedent, and just like legal citizens, presidents do have the legal right to keep their tax returns private.
With that being said, politicians are going to great efforts to force Trump to release the returns. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a ranking Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced legislation back in January that would require Trump to release the returns. Moreover, a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia may force the president to release the returns, especially as his financial history and his business ties to Russia are now under intense scrutiny.
Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was dismissed from his position after it was revealed that he discussed the sanctions imposed on Russia with Russian officials prior to Trump taking office. It was later revealed that members of the Trump team were in continuous contact with Russian officials in the year leading up to the election. Many senators on both the Democratic and Republican side might feel that the tax returns could shed light on Trump’s seemingly bizarre relationship with Russia.
“Increasingly it’s clear that there is some alternative explanation for this bizarre positioning, this softness on Russia, this permission slip that Trump has given Russia to act in ways that they have not acted in the last 20 years,” Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said. “And that explanation is either that the Russians have something on Trump, or that there are financial ties that are requiring Trump to behave this way or perhaps the Russians helped him in the election and this is sort of a quid pro quo.”
In a radio interview in late February, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican who sits on the Intelligence Committee, said that she would be open to the possibility of forcing the president to release the documents via subpoena. However, it remains unclear how the investigation will progress and if and when Trump will be forced to release the returns.
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