By John Wagner
Kellyanne Conway, a senior aide to President Donald Trump, said Sunday that he has no plans to release his tax returns, a marked shift from Trump’s pledge during the campaign to make them public once an audit was completed.
“The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” said Conway, counselor to the president, during an appearance on ABC’S “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “We litigated this all through the election.
“People didn’t care,” Conway added. “They voted for him, and let me make this very clear: Most Americans are – are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.”
Presidents are not required to release their tax returns, but presidents dating back to Richard Nixon have routinely voluntarily done so.
A Washington Post-ABC poll last week showed that Trump’s continued refusal to release his tax returns continues to be an unpopular decision, with 74 percent of Americans saying he should make the documents public, including 53 percent of Republicans.
Conway was questioned about a petition page on the White House website that allows citizens to ask government officials to take up issues of importance to them. Under former President Barack Obama, the White House would note any actions related to petitions that garnered more than 100,000 signatures online.
As of Sunday morning, a petition for Trump to immediately release his tax returns had received more than 200,000 signatures.
During the campaign and since then, Democrats consistently criticized Trump for not releasing his returns, saying that information was needed to evaluate conflicts that might be posed by his vast business holdings.
“You know full well that Trump – President Trump and his family are complying with all the ethical rules, everything they need to do to step away from his businesses and be a full-time president,” said Conway, who previously served as Trump’s campaign manager.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Conway said that White House press secretary Sean Spicer had presented “alternative facts” on Saturday when he falsely stated that Trump’s swearing-in ceremony drew “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.”
Spicer made that claim during a late Saturday afternoon briefing, in which he scolded reporters for trying to “lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration” by deliberately reporting numbers that were lower than the White House believed.
The National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, where crowds gather for the swearing-in ceremonies, does not release crowd estimates.
But visual photographs and other means make clear that Trump’s crowd was far smaller than the 1.8 million people that Obama’s first inauguration was estimated to have attracted in 2009. Television ratings released by Nielsen on Saturday also showed a smaller audience for Trump than for Obama in 2009.
Confronted by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd about Spicer’s characterization, Conway responded by saying: “You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”
Conway later backtracked and said there was no way to know which audience was larger.
“I don’t think you can prove those numbers one way or another,” she told Todd. “ There’s no way to quantify crowd numbers.”