A top aide to President Donald Trump says he won’t release his tax returns, insisting that voters aren’t concerned about the issue.
“The White House response is he’s not going to release his tax returns,” said Trump’s senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, on ABC’s “This Week.”
“We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care,” Conway added.
During another interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press”, Conway also repeatedly clashed with host Chuck Todd over estimates of crowd size at Friday’s inauguration, saying the difference between media and administration officials amounted to “alternative facts.”
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” she said.
Conway also pushed back hard against suggestions that Spicer had deliberately misrepresented crowd size, telling Todd, “… if we’re going to keep referring to our press secretary in those types of terms, I think that we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here.”
(Conway’s interview with Todd begins shortly after the 6:53 mark.)
Conway’s comments about the President’s tax returns seem to represent a departure from Trump’s earlier statements, which indicated that he would release his returns, if not for the fact that he was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.
In September, after then-vice presidential candidate Mike Pence released his own tax returns, Pence’s spokesman noted, “These returns are being released with the full support of Mr. Trump who plans to release his tax returns upon completion of a routine audit.”
During his Jan. 11th press conference, Trump said, “I’m not releasing the tax returns because, as you know, they’re under audit.”
He added, “You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only ones…I won. I mean, I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all. I think you care.”
An ABC News/Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this month indicated that 74 percent of Americans want Trump to release his tax returns, including 49 percent of his own supporters.
In addition, about 217,000 people had signed an online petition calling for the returns to be released as of mid-afternoon Sunday.
U.S. presidents are not required to release their tax returns, but they have regularly done so since the 1970s, as a gesture of transparency. Trump’s refusal to do so has been widely criticized by critics who say his many domestic and foreign financial ties need to be scrutinized more carefully.
“The president-elect did not release his tax returns. Every other candidate for president has released his tax returns, but he didn’t want to. And he apparently won’t, and we just have no idea where the financing is coming from for all these companies he owns all over the world, all these interests,” said Richard Painter, ethics adviser to former President George W. Bush, during an interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air” earlier this month.
The Conway interview came one day after Trump excoriated the media over reports about how many people showed up to watch his swearing-in, saying journalists are “among the most dishonest people on earth.”
During a visit to the CIA, Trump said as many as 1.5 million people showed up for the inauguration, and Spicer later added that it was “the largest to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”
But aerial photographs indicate a much smaller crowd, and ridership on the Washington D.C. subway system was down from President Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.
While Trump himself had offered an estimate of crowd size, Conway said it wasn’t possible to count the number of people attending, saying, “I don’t think you can prove those numbers one way or another. There’s no way to quantify crowd numbers.”
That echoed comments made by Spicer himself, who said the National Park Service no longer gives official estimates of crowd size. However, he then went on to give detailed estimates of the crowd size.