Despite a petition that has attracted more than 328,000 signatures demanding it, U.S. President Donald Trump refuses to release his tax returns, which he promised he would do once his audit was over during the campaign trail.
Under former President Barack Obama, a petition had to get at least 100,000 signatures for the White House to respond within 30 days. Though the petition has easily surpassed that number in a matter of days since it was created on Jan. 20, it is unclear what Trump will do about it.
What is clear is that he will not release those records.
"The White House response is that he's not going to release his tax returns," Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday. "We litigated this all through the election. People didn't care. They voted for him."
The following day, however, feeling the pressure from the thousands of people demanding it and the constant pressure from critics, Conway contradicted her earlier statement and backtracked, tweeting that Trump would release his tax returns once his audit was over. “On taxes, answers (& repeated questions) are same from campaign: POTUS is under audit and will not release until that is completed,” she tweeted.
It is not clear what exactly will happen.
The petition, found on the White House’s petition page, wants to air Trump’s “unprecedented economic conflicts” and “foreign influences and financial interests” weighing on this chaotic new administration.
More specifically, it wants to find out whether he is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars presidents from receiving “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state” without Congressional approval, as stated by Article I, Sec. 9.
Critics, including former White House attorneys, claim that Trump is already violating that clause given that foreign officials stay at his luxurious Trump Hotels.
During the campaign trail last year, Trump had promised to release his records once his audit by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service was over. However, the IRS does not prohibit people being audited from releasing returns if they choose to do so.
The media, citing financial analysts, has suggested Trump does not want to release his tax returns because he is actually misrepresenting his wealth.
According to a Politico article from last year, analysts have said that Trump actually makes much less than the $557 million of income he claims. Indeed, in June, The Daily Beast reported that Trump had not paid taxes in 1984, and the New York Times found that in 1995 he had declared a $916 million loss.
“This, and a very low tax rate, is why Trump won’t release his tax returns,” the article states.
The liberal-funded watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed a lawsuit alleging Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause.