President Trump will not release tax returns, says senior aide

US President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Jan 22, 2017.
US President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Jan 22, 2017.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - President Donald Trump has no intention of releasing his tax returns, his senior counsellor said on Sunday (Jan 22), ruling out a step he had said he would take once an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit was completed.

"The White House response is that he's not going to release his tax returns," Ms Kellyanne Conway said in an interview on the ABC program "This Week." "We litigated this all through the election," she added.

Last year, Mr Trump became the first major-party presidential nominee in more than 40 years not to release his tax returns, and he would be the first president since the early 1970s to decline to release tax information, either through a summary or a full or partial return.

While Ms Conway said that Mr Trump had complied "with all the ethical rules" and "done everything" he needs to do to step away from his businesses, many ethics experts have taken the opposite view.

They argue that Mr Trump has not done enough to separate himself from his business empire and guarantee that he will not be subject to conflicts of interest while in office. They continue to call for the release of his tax returns as a way of evaluating potential areas of conflict.

On Sunday, Ms Conway echoed an assertion that Mr Trump made this month when he argued that it was only the news media - not other Americans - who cared enough about his finances to demand his tax returns.

"No, I don't think they're concerned - I won," Mr Trump said. But at the time, he cited the IRS audit as the reason he would not release the documents.

In a Pew Research Centre poll this month, 60 per cent of respondents said Mr Trump should release his returns, although just 38 per cent of Republican respondents said he should.

Ms Conway said those calling for the release of the information - which includes the director of the non-partisan Office of Government Ethics - "want to keep litigating what happened in the campaign."

In the interview, Ms Conway was asked about a petition on the White House website demanding that Mr Trump release the returns. It had garnered more than 220,000 signatures by Sunday; petitions that get 100,000 signatures require a response from the White House. But Ms Conway issued a flat refusal.

Republican Senator John McCain told ABC that Mr Trump should follow the example of previous presidents.

"Tax returns have always been a tradition that should be observed," he said.