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Romney tax returns: Candidate turns transparency argument back on Obama

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Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday turned aside Democrats’ calls that he release more than a decade’s worth of tax returns, arguing that it’s the White House, and not his campaign, that has a transparency problem.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, Romney said it’s “unbelievable” to suggest that he would seek to hide assets or fail to pay his taxes and called the tax-return issue a distraction.

“And now he says, ‘Well, this is a matter of transparency,’ ” Romney said of President Obama, according to a rush transcript. “Well, how about the transparency of a president who through executive privilege is preventing the American people from finding out what happened in the Fast and Furious program? If there is transparency that needs to be considered here, it’s the lack of transparency in his administration to let the American people know what has happened in a scandalous activity known as Fast and Furious.”

“Fast and Furious” is the name of the failed gun-running operation overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Last month, the GOP-led House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for declining to release further documents related to the operation.

“So Sean, I can assure you this,” Romney told Hannity on Tuesday. “I have followed the law. I have paid my taxes as due. I have also disclosed through all of the requirements of the government, every asset which I own, fairly and honestly, recognizing, of course, not to do so would be not only wrong but illegal and criminal.”

Will Romney’s defense put the tax-return issue to rest? Not likely. On Tuesday afternoon, Vice President Biden took aim at Romney on the issue in an address to a Latino group in Las Vegas, arguing that the presumptive GOP nominee “wants you to show your papers, but he won’t show us his.”

Democrats responded by pointing to a March 2007 interview in which Romney defended President Bush’s use of executive privilege when congressional Democrats sought to force top officials including then-counsel Harriet Miers and adviser Karl Rove to testify before Congress.

“(Bush has) a responsibility to protect executive privilege,” Romney said at the time, according to CNN. “That’s just part of preserving the powers of the presidency. He should do what he thinks is the right thing with regards to members of his team but preserve executive privilege.”

Philip Rucker contributed to this report.

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