The Fight Over Trump’s Tax Returns Isn't Over

Protests in nearly 200 cities are set for Saturday to demand that the president release his personal financial documents.

Protestors asking Donald Trump to release his tax returns in a march last year. (Lynne Sladky / AP)

On Saturday, thousands are once again expected to march in cities across the U.S. But this time it’s not because of immigration policy or issues that affect women—it’s to demand the release of President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

The main marches—organized by a group of nonprofit leaders and members of the Working Families Party—will take place in Washington, D.C., and New York, with simultaneous  demonstrations planned in cities such as San Francisco and Chicago, Des Moines, and Nashville. According to the Tax March’s website, there are nearly 200 planned marches in 45 states along with international marches in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, and the U.K.

Trump has changed his stances on a variety of issues since the days of his 2016 campaign, from deeming China a currency manipulator to saying the Labor Department’s statistics are accurate. But one issue he hasn’t changed his position on is releasing his returns.

On the campaign trail, Trump said he’d make the documents available after an IRS audit has been completed. Many have criticized that response, noting that an audit does not prohibit him from releasing the returns. Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s top advisors, has vacillated in her response to the question, at times saying that he won’t make the records public, but then also echoing her bosses’ claims that the returns will be available after the audit is complete.

The release of Trump’s tax returns is an issue Americans of both parties seem keen to hang on to. In January, a poll by ABC News and The Washington Post found that 74 percent of Americans believed that Trump should release his returns. Another poll found that 64 percent of Republicans want to see Trump’s tax returns too.

Though the turnout of Saturday’s March isn’t expected to be as large as the Women’s March on Washington, Trump’s unwillingness to show the public his tax records has evoked plenty of frustration. He is the first president to break with the 40-year tradition of presidential candidates releasing tax returns before a general election. Americans generally support the idea, largely because tax returns reveal a great deal more about an individual’s finances than the voluntary financial disclosures Trump provided as an alternative during the campaign.

With that level of interest, it’s no wonder that Rachel Maddow’s tax scoop in March, a few pages from the president’s 2005 tax returns, was a nonevent that still received immense media and public attention. Anna Chu, one of the organizers of the Tax March who works at the National Women’s Law Center, told DCist that the leak didn’t show what the public needs to see. And a one-page leak of Trump’s record to The New York Times only whet the public’s appetite. The speculation that his returns might turn up concerning revelations is amplified by ongoing worries that Trump hasn’t taken adequate measures to distance himself from his businesses while in office, resulting in myriad conflicts of interests.

As president, Trump’s returns will be automatically selected for auditing every year in accordance with an IRS rule. But that mandatory audit won’t reveal his finances to the public, nor will it scrutinize the president’s financial situation  prior to taking office.

After Trump’s inauguration, the first petition to appear on the White House’s citizen-petitions website We the People called for the immediate release of the president’s tax returns. That petition has since garnered over a million signatures, the most signatures a We the People petition has ever gotten, though there’s been no official response from the White House. The idea for the march started as a tweet from a professor and a comedian; the fact that it’s turned into a national event is indication enough that Americans have no intention of letting the matter go easily.