Trump ‘Could Have’ Released Tax Returns In 2016 Election, His Chief Of Staff Says, Contradicting Trump’s Claim

Donald Trump claimed in 2016 that he was prevented from releasing his tax returns because they were under IRS audit, but his acting chief of staff appeared to contradict him on Sunday.

Donald Trump in 2016.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

Donald Trump claimed in 2016 that he was prevented from releasing his tax returns because they were under IRS audit, but his acting chief of staff appeared to contradict him on Sunday.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump claimed on repeated occasions that he was prevented from releasing his tax returns because, he said, they were under audit by the Internal Revenue Service, as CNN reported. But in a Fox News Sunday interview, Trump’s own current acting White House chief of staff appeared to contradict Trump’s claims, saying that Trump “could have” released the returns, but simply chose not to.

Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, opened her campaign in July of 2015 by releasing eight years of previous tax returns, according to Politico. Those returns brought her public tax return releases up to date to that point, after she her husband, President Bill Clinton, had released tax returns going back to 1977.

Trump’s refusal to make his tax returns public immediately set him apart from almost every previous presidential candidate who was nominated by either the Democratic or Republican party, going back to 1976, according to Politifact. Only the then-incumbent President Gerald R. Ford did not release his tax returns, when he ran against Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976, though he did release a “tax summary.”

Trump claimed that due to the “audit” he was prohibited from releasing his returns, and he has continued to make the same claim, saying as recently as Friday, April 5, “Hey, I’m under audit,” when asked about the release of his tax returns by reporters, according to Bloomberg News.

In Sunday’s Fox News interview, however, Mulvaney appeared to say that it was within Trump’s power to release his tax returns, but he decided to not do so, and he won the 2016 election anyway, Politico reported.

“That’s an issue that was already litigated during the election,” Mulvaney said in the interview, as seen in the video above on this page. “Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns. They knew that he didn’t, and they elected him anyway — which, of course, is what drives the Democrats crazy.”

Mick Mulvaney grimaces.
  Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The tax returns of sitting presidents and vice presidents are audited annually by the IRS, according to IRS regulations, but every president from Richard Nixon in 1973 to Barack Obama in 2016 has made his tax returns public. Trump has yet to do so, citing the audit, even though the fact of being under audit does not prevent a president, or anyone, from making personal tax returns public.

One year of Trump’s tax returns, from tax year 2005, has been made public, though that came through an anonymous leak to the media and not by Trump himself. The 2005 return, according to Vox.com, showed Trump declaring about $150 million in income, while paying $38 million — about 25 percent — in federal tax.