OPED TRUMP-SUPPORTERS-COMMENTARY LA

President Donald Trump participates in the Celebrate Freedom Rally at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, July 1, 2017.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, set a deadline of April 23 for the IRS to deliver President Trump’s tax returns. It’s the latest effort by Democrats to retrieve Trump’s financial records.

The Treasury Department has already missed its April 10 deadline. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that he hasn’t decided if the department will comply with the request.

“The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically-motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power,” Mnuchin wrote, according to Fox.

Trump has repeatedly said that he would “love” to hand over his tax returns. Yet he hasn’t done so — allegedly because he’s being audited.

However, since February 2016, the IRS has said that Trump can release his tax returns, regardless of audit. If Trump would’ve simply declined to release his tax returns, it would be a fair response. But lying about it looks extremely suspicious.

Does Trump have to release his tax returns?

No.

Do we want the government demanding that we disclose our financial records to the public?

Probably not.

Should Trump release his tax returns?

I think so.

U.S. presidents have released their tax returns every year since Nixon was sworn into office. That’s 40 years’ worth of presidents who have released them, in case you’re interested. Why should Trump be an exception?

In March 2017, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow released the first two pages of Trump’s 2005 federal income tax returns, even though the returns weren’t obtained consensually. The returns showed that Trump earned a gross income of $150 million and paid $38 million in federal taxes that year.

Trump paid a higher percentage of income tax than either President Barack Obama or Sen. Bernie Sanders. The leak arguably made Maddow look foolish.

If Trump’s tax returns are similar in subsequent years, why not release them?

Mick Mulvaney, the Acting White House Chief of Staff, said Trump’s tax returns will “never” be released, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has questioned the intelligence of Democrats attempting to see Trump’s tax returns.

“I don't think Congress, particularly this group of congressmen and women, are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume President Trump’s taxes will be," Sanders said.

Questioning the intelligence of representatives like Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) is, in my view, disappointing at best and discriminatory at worst.

There are more positives than negatives for Trump to release his tax returns. Trump could possibly hand Democrats another loss by showing that he hasn’t done anything illegal in his taxes. In doing so, he would prove his commitment to transparency.

In 2015, Trump himself said, “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely — and I would love to do that.”

So, Mr. President, deliver on your promise. Release your tax returns.

Opinion Editor

Samuel Schell-Olsen, opinion editor, has been with The News Record since Aug. 2018. He frequently writes about politics, society and elections.