White House says Congress 'not smart enough' to understand Trump's taxes

Kadia Tubman
Reporter
President Trump and press secretary Sarah Sanders head to the South Lawn to speak to reporters in October 2018. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders spent Sunday morning in full defense of President Trump on everything from his reluctance to release his taxes to his change of heart on WikiLeaks and tweeted attacks on a Muslim congresswoman.

Sanders told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that she thought members of Congress “weren’t smart enough” to understand Trump’s tax returns.

“This is a dangerous, dangerous road,” said Sanders. “And frankly, Chris, I don't think Congress, particularly not this group of congressmen and women, are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume that President Trump’s taxes will be.”

“My guess is most of them don’t do their own taxes,” she added, “and I certainly don’t trust them to look through the decades of success that the president has and determine anything.”

Democrats, empowered after the 2018 elections gave them control of the House, requested six years of the president’s personal and business tax returns under a provision in the federal tax code that says the IRS “shall furnish” any filer’s tax return information to the chairs of three congressional committees “upon written request.”

In response to Sanders’s comments, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted, “Dear @PressSec Sarah Sanders: How about sending us the tax returns of @POTUS as required by law. If we are not smart enough to understand them, we will send them back. Pinky promise. I am smart enough to understand @realDonaldTrump is gutting preexisting conditions coverage.”

House Democrats initially gave the Trump administration a deadline of April 10 but pushed it to April 23 after the administration asked for more time to consider the initial request, which Sanders on Sunday called a “disgusting overreach.”

“The president’s been clear from the beginning that as long as his taxes are under audit he’s not going to release them,” said Sanders. And when asked if Trump will order the IRS not to release his tax returns, Sanders said, “We'll have to see what happens on that front. This issue’s even been litigated — we went through it in 2016.”

And speaking of 2016, Sanders also on “Fox News Sunday” attempted to clarify Trump’s “deal” with WikiLeaks after its founder, Julian Assange, was arrested last week.

“I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing,” Trump told reporters inside the Oval Office Thursday when asked if he still loves WikiLeaks. And when asked about Assange, he said, “I know nothing really about him — it’s not my deal in life.”

“Look, clearly the president was making a joke during the 2016 campaign,” Sanders said Sunday about Trump, who had repeatedly praised WikiLeaks ahead of the 2016 election.

“I’ll tell you, this WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable,” Trump said at a rally in Lakeland, Fla., on Oct. 12, 2016. “It tells you the inner heart — you gotta read it.”

In Wilmington, Ohio, five days later, Trump said that as he was “getting off the plane, they were just announcing new WikiLeaks, and I wanted to stay there, but I didn’t want to keep you waiting.”

“Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks,” he added.

“Certainly, we take this serious,” said Sanders on Sunday as she credited Assange’s arrest to the Trump administration. “We’re the only ones that have taken this whole process seriously and actually did something to solve the problem. The president was making a joke during the campaign … about the specifics of the case at that moment.”

Sanders also asserted on ABC News’ “This Week” that Trump, after days of stoking controversy around freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., meant no harm to the Muslim congresswoman.

The president “is wishing no ill will, certainly not violence towards anyone," said Sanders. "But the president is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her, not only one-time, but history of anti-Semitic comments.”

Omar, previously embroiled in controversy because of her criticisms of Israel, had come under new assault over a speech she gave last month at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) fundraiser during which she said the organization “was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

Republicans zeroed in on the line “some people did something,” which they considered a flippant description of the terrorists and their actions, and on Saturday, Trump tweeted a video splicing together Omar’s comments and footage of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Democrats came to Omar’s defense and condemned Trump’s actions as inciting racism and Islamophobic violence.

Omar responded to the attacks on Twitter, writing, “I did not run for Congress to be silent. I did not run for Congress to sit on the sidelines. I ran because I believed it was time to restore moral clarity and courage to Congress. To fight and to defend our democracy.”

She continued: “No one person — no matter how corrupt, inept, or vicious — can threaten my unwavering love for America. I stand undeterred to continue fighting for equal opportunity in our pursuit of happiness for all Americans.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in a statement Sunday that she had spoken with congressional authorities “to ensure that Capitol Police are conducting a security assessment to safeguard Congresswoman Omar, her family and her staff.”

“They will continue to monitor and address the threats she faces,” said Pelosi, who denounced Trump’s involvement in the controversy.

“The President’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger,” she said. “President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video.”

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