Donald Trump probably won't release his tax returns before November, but the American people shouldn't worry, he says: "There's nothing to learn from them."
"Now, I hope it gets finished soon," Trump said of the audit. "And if it gets finished soon, I put it out immediately because there's nothing there. But until you get finished, you won't."
There is no legal precedent for withholding tax returns due to an audit, but Trump said he will not go against his lawyers' wishes.
It's common practice for presidential candidates to release their tax returns leading up to the general election to make their financial practices more transparent. Every nominee since 1976 has released at least some tax returns.
Trump has faced added pressure throughout the campaign season from both Democrats and Republican skeptics, like Mitt Romney, who have asserted the returns would shed an unfavorable light on the entrepreneur's lofty claims of wealth and deal artistry.
Hillary Clinton scoffed at Trump for his announcement Wednesday, questioning the true motive behind his decision to wait to release the records. Romney went so far as to call the decision "disqualifying."
"There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them. Given Mr. Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size," Romney wrote in a Facebook post.
Trump's decision is in line with the rest of his campaign
The tax return debate is just the latest example of the double role Trump's business expertise claims are playing in the campaign. He's made his businesses the foundation of his candidacy, and he won't back down when they become a weakness. Instead, he keeps asserting that his version of reality is the accurate one.
Trump has a long list of questionable business endeavors to his name, like Trump University, Trump steaks, and Trump Magazine, which have become increasingly controversial this campaign season. In response to questions of the legitimacy of his various business endeavors, Trump gave a bizarre campaign night speech in March in which he claimed all his discontinued products were still available to buy.
The same dynamic is at play when, despite repeated inquiries about his tax returns, Trump says he doesn't believe anyone is interested in seeing them. At the end of the day, that's what works for Trump: If he says something, it doesn't matter whether it's true or fits the presidential mold — it's the way he does things.