Republican senator raucously booed for defending Trump’s decision to not release his tax returns

“As far as I’m aware of the president says he’s still under audit.”

CREDIT: ABC News screengrab
CREDIT: ABC News screengrab

During a town hall event Monday afternoon, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) defended President Trump’s decision not to release his tax returns.

“As far as I’m aware of the president says he’s still under audit,” Cotton said, prompting the crowd to erupt in boos.

Once they subsided, Cotton went on to say that he believes Trump has already prevailed in the debate over whether his returns need to be made public.

“The president is also right that this was not a secondary or side issue of the campaign, this was a central issue of the campaign,” Cotton said. “Hillary Clinton and her campaign repeatedly criticized President Trump for this, and he won despite all that.”

But Cotton’s suggestion that Trump never promised to release his returns is false. Trump, in fact, repeatedly promised he’d release them. In 2014, he said, “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns. Absolutely. I would love to do that.” Trump iterated that promise during the first presidential debate, saying, “I’m under a routine audit and it’ll be released, and as soon as the audit is finished it will be released.” The IRS says Trump is free to release his returns, audit or no audit.

But on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer signaled Trump may never release his returns after all. Asked by Johnathan Karl of ABC News if it is “time to just say once and for all the president is never going to release his tax returns,” Spicer replied, “We’ll have to get back to you on that.”

Cotton’s remarks come a day after thousands across the country participated in marches protesting Trump’s decision to hide his returns, which shields the public from getting a full picture of his conflicts of interest and financial entanglements. They also come as House Republicans repeatedly block Democratic efforts to force Trump to turn his tax returns over to Congress and thereby effectively make them public.

Cotton isn’t the first Republican senator to be condemned for defending Trump during a recent town hall. Last Thursday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was roundly booed for refusing to criticize Trump’s decisions not to release his tax returns and to regularly travel to Mar-a-Lago on taxpayers’ dime.

In February, a video clip of a 7-year-old boy criticizing Trump’s demonization of immigrants during a Cotton town hall went viral. Cotton’s response to the boy didn’t address his criticism and was received with boos. He then abruptly left the event, telling the crowd he had “another appointment.”