Monday was the deadline for President Trump to file his 2016 federal tax return. Ordinarily, a president would make the document public. Trump did not, which is unsurprising.
What is notable is that the media forgot to ask.
Among dozens of questions posed to Trump during an impromptu news conference in the Rose Garden on Monday were several about tax policy but none about his own filings, which were, at one time, hotly pursued by the media.
That Trump was spared a single inquiry about his tax return, for which he had received a filing extension, is a testament to his highly effective burial of the issue. He has stalled or refused to release tax documents so many times that the pressure is off.
While propagating his birther conspiracy theory about President Barack Obama and mulling over a White House bid in 2011, Trump told ABC: “I may tie my tax returns — I'd love to give my tax returns — I may tie my tax returns into Obama's birth certificate.”
You know what happened. Obama released his birth certificate; Trump held on to his tax returns.
“If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns, absolutely,” Trump said in an interview on Irish television in 2014. “I would love to do that.”
In January 2016, when he was running for office, Trump told NBC that “we're working on that right now. I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and beautiful, and we'll be working on that over the next period of time. . . . At the appropriate time, you'll be very satisfied.”
Later in the campaign, Trump changed his story and claimed that he couldn't release his tax returns because he was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. He said he would make the documents public once the audit was complete.
More recently, Trump told the Economist that he might not make any tax documents public during his presidency.
“I might release them after I'm out of office,” he said.
Politicians' tax returns can be newsworthy for several reasons. They are indicators of wealth and charitable giving, and can reveal potential conflicts of interest. In Trump's case, they might bolster or undercut his assertion that he has no financial ties to Russia.
Leaked documents have provided glimpses of Trump's tax payments over the years. About a month before Election Day, the New York Times obtained three pages of state tax returns from 1995 that showed that Trump declared a $916 million loss that year. In March, DCReport and MSNBC obtained two pages of Trump's 2005 federal return, which were a bit more impressive: $153 million in income and an effective tax rate of 24 percent.
In both cases, reporters said they received Trump's tax documents in the mail, unexpectedly, from unknown sources. Should more surprises arrive in journalists' mailboxes, the media surely will cover the new discoveries extensively.
For now, however, the reporters have stopped hounding Trump to turn over his tax returns, which amounts to a victory for the president.