As a formal request by congressional Democrats for the release of President Donald Trump’s tax returns sets up a potential legal battle for the documents, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) dismissed the effort as a fool’s errand.
“I’d like the president to follow through and show his tax returns,” Romney said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
While noting that Trump a few years back had agreed to release the financial information, Romney said, “But I have to also tell you I think the Democrats are just playing along his handbook, which is [that] going after his tax returns through a legislative action is moronic.”
“That’s not going to happen,” he added.
Trump in 2014 claimed he would release the information if he won the presidency. But as the 2016 White House campaign intensified and the clamor grew for him to do so, he began watering down the promise. He said he would be transparent about his taxes “if it was necessary,” and that a release of the data would happen “at some point, probably.”
He also insisted numerous times that he was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, using that as an excuse to avoid producing his returns. He’s since continued making that argument, even as experts have said an audit does not preclude him from making public the returns.
On Wednesday, House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) asked the IRS to release six years of the president’s personal and business returns. Trump responded by once again saying he was stymied by the audit.
Neal used a 1924 law giving lawmakers the power to skirt that issue and get ahold of the documents anyway. But on Sunday, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said the effort wouldn’t work.
Trump’s lawyers have also been fighting the request. They have noted no law exists that requires a president to disclose his taxes ― even though such release has been common practice for decades not only by White House occupants but by candidates seeking the office.
Romney, who in the past has expressed suspicion about what information Trump’s returns might yield, said Democrats’ attempt to obtain the tax returns through legal channels was a lost cause.
“The courts are not going to say that you can compel a person running for office to release their tax returns, so he’s going to win this victory,” he said. “He wins them time after time.”
Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee who lost that election to then-President Barack Obama, released his 2011 tax returns during his White House candidacy.