Pressure grows on Trump over his tax returns 'bombshell'
Published 13/05/2016 | 02:30
Donald Trump's refusal to release tax returns "disqualifies" him as president, Mitt Romney has said.
Donald Trump is under growing pressure to release his tax returns after Mitt Romney, the Republicans' 2012 presidential candidate, said failure to do so would disqualify him as president.
The issue threatened to overshadow Mr Trump's scheduled meeting with senior Republicans on Capitol Hill yesterday, after the candidate backtracked on a previous pledge to make his returns public, as is traditional for presidential nominees.
Mr Romney, who has already said Mr Trump should not be the Republican candidate, hit out on Facebook after the property tycoon - who claims to be worth US$10bn - said he was unlikely to release his returns before November's election because they are currently being audited by the authorities.
"It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters, especially one who has not been subject to public scrutiny in either military or public service," Mr Romney wrote.
"Mr Trump says he is being audited. So? There is nothing that prevents releasing tax returns that are being audited. Further, he could release returns for the years immediately prior to the years under audit.
"There is only one logical explanation for Mr Trump's refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them. Given Mr Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size."
All presidential nominees of major parties have issued tax returns during election campaigns for the past 40 years, although Mr Romney himself only did so in 2012 after a public clamour.
Mr Trump said he would not release his returns while they were being audited because "there's nothing to learn from them", adding that he believed the public had little interest in them.
The audit, on returns going back to 2009, is not expected to be completed before the presidential poll. He had previously promised to open his tax returns to public scrutiny.
Mr Trump's volte face also left him open to fresh attacks from Hillary Clinton, whom he has attempted to characterise as "crooked Hillary".
Mrs Clinton, who posted eight years of returns on her website, told supporters at a rally in New Jersey: "When you're running for president and you become the nominee, that's kind of expected.
"So you've got to ask yourself, why doesn't he want to release them? Yeah, well, we're going to find out."
Mr Trump's citing of an audit as justification for keeping his returns under wraps has already been undermined by a public statement in February from the Internal Revenue Service that it did not prevent him from making them public.
President Richard Nixon released his tax returns while they were being audited in 1973, at a time when his presidency was being consumed by the Watergate scandal. They showed he had seriously fallen short of his tax obligations, paying just over US$6,000 on nearly $800,000 income over a three-year period.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan pledged to work together despite their differences after a meeting yesterday aimed at repairing their breach and unifying a party torn over Trump's rise to the cusp of the GOP presidential nomination.
They issued a statement describing their meeting as a "very positive step toward unification" that recognised "many important areas of common ground" as well as areas where they disagree.
Ryan has yet to come out in support of Trump, a week after stunning Republicans by withholding his endorsement. But their statement suggested both are invested in tamping down the Republican infighting as they try to pull the GOP together for the fight against Hilary Clinton and Democrats.
The much-anticipated meeting unfolded yesterday morning as more Republicans have begun urging the party to put the extraordinary discord behind.
"The meeting was great," Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, tweeted after. "It was a very positive step toward party unity."
Mr Priebus attended the opening meeting with the two before Trump and Ryan sat down with a small group of GOP House leaders.
On the eve of the meetings, Trump eased his defiant tone of recent days. Asked on Fox News who led the party in his view, he said Ryan. "I would say Paul for the time being and maybe for a long time," he said. "We can always have differences," he said. "If you agree on 70pc, that's always a lot."