House Speaker Paul D. Ryan suggested on Thursday that Donald Trump should release his tax returns but stopped short of calling on him to do so immediately.
Pressed at his weekly news conference, Ryan noted he released his own tax returns when he was the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2012 then said he would “defer to Donald Trump as to when he thinks the appropriate time to release his returns.”
“I know he’s under an audit, and he’s got an opinion about when to release those,” Ryan (R-Wis.) said. “I’ll defer to him on that.”
Trump has cited an ongoing IRS audit for declining to release his tax returns, thus breaking with 40 years of precedent for presidential nominees. There is no federal law or regulation that prevents Trump from making public a return that is under audit.
“Do you think it’s a good idea?” CNN reporter Manu Raju asked Ryan in a follow-up question.
“I released mine, and I think we should release ours,” Ryan said, pausing before adding: “I’ll leave it to him on when to do it.” He left unclear whom he meant by “we” or “ours.”
The tax-return issue re-emerged this week after Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., cited reasons other than the audit in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “[H]e’s got a 12,000-page tax return that would create … financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would detract from (is father’s) main message.”
Separately on Thursday, Senate Democrats attempted to move a bill through the Senate that would force disclosure of Trump’s recent tax returns — as well as those for all major-party presidential candidates going forward.
“Every Democrat, every Republican, every liberal, every conservative has subscribed to honoring this particular tradition,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said before attempting to pass the bill by unanimous consent.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the majority whip, objected to the motion: “If my friend from Oregon wants to discuss transparency and bringing the presidential election here to the floor of the United States Senate, I think the person we should start with is the former Secretary of State.”
Cornyn then tried to pass a Republican bill that would have the effect of revoking Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s security clearance based on the FBI’s assessment that she and State Department aides were “extremely careless” in handling classified information. Wyden objected.