Bernie Sanders on Releasing His Taxes: ‘It’s a Question of Dotting the I’s and Crossing the T’s’

Bernie Sanders on Releasing His Taxes: ‘It’s a Question of Dotting the I’s and Crossing the T’s’

Bernie Sanders has promised to release his taxes once again. Should anyone believe he will follow through?

During a Sunday-morning interview on Face the Nation, host Margaret Brennan asked the Vermont senator if he would be releasing his taxes anytime soon. Sanders seemed a little thrown by the question, which is weird because he’s been getting it in one form or another since the 2016 campaign.

“Yeah, we will, we have it all done and it’s just a question of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” Sanders responded. Then he turned the question around and challenged President Trump to release his returns, which remain infamously under audit. Sanders also noted that his taxes will show he doesn’t have investments “in Russia or Saudi Arabia or anyplace else.”

This is at least the second time just since the end of February that Sanders has promised to release his tax returns. The first time, he said he would release them “soon,” that the delay was the result of a “mechanical issue,” and that he and his wife Jane just had a few more things to check.

Sanders’s refusal to release his returns has long passed the point of odd and veered into the realm of the suspicious. Not releasing his taxes might have flown in 2016, because after he lost the primary there was no reason for the public to see them. But in 2020, after four years of some voters wondering what favors to foreign entities might be hidden in Donald Trump’s unseen returns, financial transparency is going to be a requirement for the Democratic candidate. Several of them have released their returns already, and more will surely do so in the coming months.

There are a couple of possible reasons why Sanders has not yet released his returns. One is that, being Bernie Sanders, he considers personal issues such as his taxes an unimportant distraction from discussing political issues. This is also a reason why he has long been reluctant to share his personal history on the campaign trail, a trait that his advisors are reportedly trying to get him to overcome this time around.

Another possible reason for his reluctance is that there is something hinky in his returns that will give his campaign opponents ammunition to attack him. And whatever it is, he and his campaign are genuinely scared it will hurt his chances.

But his campaign must also know that the longer he refuses to release the returns, the more suspicious it looks. If the returns are as boring as he claims, then there is zero reason besides sheer indifference that he has yet to release them. And again, indifference will not fly in the era of Donald Trump except among Sanders’s most hardcore supporters.

If Sanders’s returns are not boring, if there is indeed something in them that can hurt his campaign, then the smart thing to do is get them out there now. There are ten months until primary voting begins. Sanders is well out in front in early polls, with only Joe Biden looking like a real challenger, and Biden is facing his own problems that are going to hurt him with the Democratic electorate. Sanders should take the hit on his returns now, while he can still recover from it.

One thing is for sure. The press and his opponents are not going to stop asking about his tax returns. The longer he hides them, the more he makes them a target and an opportunity.

Gary Legum

Gary Legum has written about politics and culture for Independent Journal Review, Salon, The Daily Beast, Wonkette, AlterNet and McSweeney's, among others. He currently lives in his native state of Virginia.