Press: What's Donald Trump trying to hide?

You thought the battle over whether the full Mueller report should be released was heating up? Fuhgetaboutit! That’s nothing compared to the all-out war between Congress and the White House over release of President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE’s tax returns.

That war broke out when new House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOvernight Health Care: Social Security won't be able to fund full payouts by 2035 | Drug companies under scrutiny from Congress boost lobbying | US on pace to break record for measles cases On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Social Security won't be able to fund full payouts by 2035 MORE (D-Mass.) filed a request with the IRS, requesting release of six years of Trump’s tax returns by April 10. Trump immediately fired back with the now-standard response: As much as he’d like to, he can’t release his tax returns because he’s under audit; and this is all a political trick to embarrass the president. Neither of which holds water.

Must Trump, as president, do what he refused to do as candidate and release his tax returns? In the end, the Supreme Court may decide this issue. But, in the meantime, there are six things we know with certainty.


One. The law could not be more clear. Section 6103(f) of the IRS Code says that the Treasury secretary, through the IRS commissioner, “shall furnish” — not “may” furnish, but “shall” furnish — any individual’s tax return to the chairs of three congressional committees “upon written request.” There is no exception allowed for any elected official, not even the president, nor for anybody under audit. Ironically, this law was adopted in 1924, after the Teapot Dome scandal, to give Congress the power to protect against financial improprieties by any president or Cabinet member.  

Two. Releasing one’s tax returns is standard form. Every president since Richard Nixon has done so, without protest. And so has every major party presidential candidate, Republican and Democrat, since the 1980s. Some released more than others. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Pelosi downplays impeachment post-Mueller report MORE and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainIf you don't think illegal immigrants are voting for president, think again 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era Earth Day founder's daughter: Most Republican leaders believe in climate change in private MORE each offered up the most recent two years of returns; Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump rips Krugman, NYT after columnist writes GOP no longer believes in American values Klobuchar jokes to Cuomo: 'I feel you creeping over my shoulder' but 'not in a Trumpian manner' Dems seek to rein in calls for impeachment MORE, eight years. 

Three. No matter what Donald Trump says, being under audit is no excuse for not releasing the returns. Again, the IRS Code provides no special protection for those being audited. As president, Richard Nixon’s returns were under audit. When requested by Congress, he released them anyway. Further complicating things, we don’t even know for sure that Trump’s returns are under audit. We have no evidence for it, other than Trump’s word — which, as we’ve learned, isn’t worth much.

Four. If, in fact, the IRS is auditing Trump’s tax returns and, as he complains, has been doing so for several years, that fact in and of itself indicates Trump has a problem. They must have found serious irregularities to merit such sustained attention. They’re not wasting their time investigating nothing. Which tells all you need to know about Trump’s response.

Five. The very fact that Trump won’t follow the lead of every other modern-day candidate and president by releasing his tax returns shouts loudly and clearly that he has something to hide. Who knows what? Maybe that he’s not as wealthy, or didn’t give as much to charity, as he brags about, or didn’t pay his fair share of taxes. Whatever it is, it’s not good news for him, which is the only reason why Trump wants to keep it a secret. 

Six. In the end, Trump will lose this battle, so he might as well surrender his tax returns now. One White House official told CNN: “This is a hill and people would be willing to die on it.” Given that the law is so clear, it’s a dumb hill to die on.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”