Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Thursday that "everybody" running for president in 2020 should publicly release their tax returns — President Donald Trump included.
The senior senator's comments come less than one day after House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said he had formally requested six years of the president's personal and business tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service on Wednesday and set a deadline of April 10 to receive the documents.
"I think you should release your tax returns if you're running for president in 2020," Graham, one of Trump's closest allies on Capitol Hill, told reporters Thursday. "I think everybody should. That's just my view, it'd be good for the country."
Democrats have been on a hunt to obtain Trump's tax returns after he bucked decades of tradition when he refused to release them during the 2016 election cycle, with Neal's request setting the stage for what is likely to be a lengthy legal battle with the administration.
Although not required by law, every major party presidential nominee since the 1970s has chosen to publicly release his or her tax returns except for Gerald Ford, who only released a summary. Financial disclosures can help paint a fuller picture of a candidate's business positions and interests by providing information about financial dealings, such as investments, donations, business relationships, assets and possible conflicts of interests.
Trump appeared unfazed by the request for six years of his returns Wednesday night.
"Is that all? Oh, usually it's 10. So I guess they're giving up," the president told reporters at the White House before saying he would not be willing to comply with Neal's request until he was no longer "under audit."
"Now, we're under audit despite what people said. We're working that out, as I'm always under audit, it seems," Trump added. "But I've been under audit, because the numbers are big. And I guess when you have a name, you're audited. But until such time as I'm not under audit, I would not be inclined to do that."
In February 2015, while Trump was mulling what was then considered a long shot bid for the White House, he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt he would follow the long-standing tradition of presidents and presidential candidates and release his tax returns — if he threw his hat into the presidential ring.
After jumping into the presidential race, Trump told ABC News in August 2015 he would release them "at some point."
The president again vowed to release his tax returns in a January 2016 interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," telling host Chuck Todd, "We're working on that now. I have big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful. And we'll be working that over in the next period of time."
But in February 2016, Trump appeared to become skittish about releasing his tax returns, arguing he could not disclose his returns, because he was currently being audited by the IRS — even though an audit does not prevent a taxpayer from releasing his or her own tax documents.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., on Thursday said that he "would like to" see the president's taxes, although he also argued Trump's repeated false claims that he cannot disclose them due to an audit were "legitimate."
"Yeah, I would like to," Kennedy said in an interview with CNN. "But I think he has — at least if you take the president at his word — a legitimate reason for not turning them over. He says he's in the middle of an audit, and his CPAs say, 'Don't turn it over.' And I take him at his word, and I respect that."
"I think, all things being equal, I would like to see [the] president's taxes," he continued. "You know, I wouldn't be averse to turning over my taxes. I don't have anything to hide."