Kayleigh McEnany, spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, said it was ironic that Democrats were requesting Trump’s tax returns, saying that returns for previous presidents were never requested, Think Progress reports. McEnany stated that Democrats have no legitimate legislative purposes for requesting the returns and called out opponents for going after Trump’s returns.
“Ironically, the only person whose tax returns they’ve asked for — the only president — is Trump. So it’s a sham reasoning,” she said in an interview on Fox News.
But what McEnany didn’t say, however, is that there is a very good reason that previous presidents did not face the same degree of scrutiny when it came to releasing tax returns: they all did so voluntarily.
Most recently, then-President Barack Obama voluntarily shared all of his returns from 2000 to 2015. George W. Bush did the same between 2000 and 2007. Bill Clinton likewise made his returns available during his tenure in office, as did Hillary Clinton in the run-up up to the Democratic primary in 2016.
Going back even further, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon each made their returns available to the public, meaning that the protocol dates back decades and spans both major political parties.
Regardless, Trump has remained steadfast in his unwillingness to provide his own returns, willingly or otherwise, citing an ongoing IRS audit that he says prohibits him from doing so. The tax audit reasoning has been cited as recently as this week, although IRS officials have consistently said that there is nothing about an audit which would prevent the release of tax returns. Further, as a matter of routine protocol, all sitting presidents are audited automatically, with the process never yet preventing a modern president from sharing tax returns while in office.
— Lawrence H. Summers (@LHSummers) April 8, 2019
Trump’s failure to provide the returns voluntarily has prompted Democratic opponents, specifically Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to look for ways to force him to do so. Neal has formally requested that the IRS turn over the president’s returns under a law that allows him to request tax returns from any taxpayer.
Trump, dating back to even before he had formally announced his run for the presidency, has said publicly that he would make his returns public. Thus far, now a number of years later and more than halfway through his term as president, that hasn’t happened.
Any further legislative action against the president will likely result in a substantial court challenge, which could easily stretch well beyond the 2020 election cycle.