August 5th, 2012
11:00 AM ET
2 years ago

Graham, Gibbs tangle over Reid's allegations

(CNN) – Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham strongly took issue with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's accusations that Mitt Romney has not paid taxes in 10 years, saying Sunday that the Democratic leader was "lying."

"What he did on the floor of the Senate is so out of bounds. I think he's lying about his statement, of knowing something about Romney," Graham said on CNN's "State of the Union."

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In a Huffington Post interview published Tuesday, the leading Democrat said that an unnamed investor with Bain Capital, Romney's former private equity firm, told Reid in a phone conversation that Romney had not paid taxes for a decade.

Reid stood by the allegations Thursday while speaking on the Senate floor.

"The word's out that he hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years," he said. "Let him prove he has paid taxes, because he hasn't."

Taking questions from the media after an event Friday, Romney responded to the allegations from Reid, reiterating his call for the majority leader to "put up or shut up."

"Harry, who are your sources? Let's have Harry explain who that is," Romney said.

The candidate said firmly, "I have paid taxes every year, and a lot of taxes, so Harry is wrong."

Echoing those sentiments Sunday, Graham said the majority leader was "making things up" to distract from the "real issues."

"I just cannot believe that the majority leader of the United States Senate would take the floor twice, make accusations that are absolutely unfounded, in my view, and quite frankly making things up to divert the real campaign away from the real issues," the South Carolina senator told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

Graham wasn't the only one expressing anger over the situation. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus piled on and called Reid a "dirty liar."

"I'm not going to respond to a dirty liar who hasn't filed a single page of tax returns himself (and) complains about people with money but lives in the Ritz-Carlton here down the street," Priebus said the ABC News program "This Week." "And the fact that we're going to spend any time talking about it is ridiculous."

Reid defended his words in a statement Thursday night, saying Romney is "hiding something," and he called on the presumptive GOP nominee to release more tax returns.

"When it comes to answering the legitimate questions the American people have about whether he avoided paying his fair share in taxes or why he opened a Swiss bank account, Romney has shut up. But as a presidential candidate, it's his obligation to put up and release several years' worth of tax returns, just like nominees of both parties have done for decades," Reid said.

Responding to Graham's statements on Sunday, Reid's spokesman Adam Jentleson said in a statement it was "sad" that Romney "has forced his party to defend his decision to hide the truth about his tax returns."

"As Senator Reid has said, an extremely credible source informed him that Mitt Romney did not pay taxes for ten years," Jentleson said. "It's clear Mitt Romney is hiding something, and the only way for him to clear this up is to be straight with the American people and release his tax returns."

Romney has made public the full 2010 tax return and an estimate for 2011, with a pledge to release the full year once it's complete. He filed an extension for an October deadline.

Meanwhile, Romney's team has insisted that President Barack Obama's re-election campaign was encouraging Reid to make the attacks from behind the scenes.

Asked if Obama's team was pushing the majority leader to stay on the offensive, senior campaign adviser Robert Gibbs did not directly answer the question Sunday but further called on Romney to reveal more of his tax information.

"I think it's important that we know the financial background of candidates," Gibbs said on "State of the Union."

Obama's campaign has been at the forefront of calls for Romney to release more tax documents, insisting the presumptive GOP nominee make public as many as 12 years' worth, which his father, the late George Romney, released when he ran for president in the 1960s.

"We could put this to rest tomorrow. Mitt Romney can go to Kinko's, photocopy his tax returns. There are several hundred pages. He could hand them out to people like CNN and to reporters all over the country, and we wouldn't talk about this tomorrow. We wouldn't say, 'Is he paying taxes? What's he paying?' The whole world would know what loopholes he's taking advantage of," Gibbs said, adding he would provide Romney with nickels to make copies.

Romney, however, has repeatedly said he has paid his taxes in full and will not release anything further.

His campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, said Thursday on CNN's "The Situation Room" that Romney has "never zeroed out his tax liability" and "has always paid 100% of what was owed."

One of Romney's biggest surrogates in the Senate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, also came to Romney's defense on Thursday, saying Reid may have "gone over the line."

"To accuse someone of doing something without a shred of proof-that the allegation has any substance-is really something I, frankly, don't understand," McCain said on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360.

McCain, whose 2008 presidential campaign reviewed Romney's tax records as they considered him to be the vice presidential running mate, said last month he can "personally vouch" that there was "nothing disqualifying" in the tax returns of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

– CNN's Dana Bash, Ted Barrett, Dana Davidsen, Kevin Liptak and Shawna Shepherd contributed to this report.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Wake up people

    All Willard has to do is show the darn taxes! If President Obama had to be humiliated into releasing his birth certificate, isn't this the least the lying tax evader can do??

    OBAMA 2012!

    August 5, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  2. Wanderer

    IIf Romney has nothing to hide and wants to silence the DEM, he should release his tax returns. Obama could silence many GOP about their doubt of his citizenship by releasing his birth certificate. Why can't Romney do the same thing?

    August 5, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  3. Logic N LA

    OK- he paid his taxes- but on what income? was he still getting checks from Bain during 1999-2002? First he said he was not part of the company- now we know he was still CEO and majority stockholder. As such he was responsible for theit actions. Show us- admit it – and even non supporters will have more respect for you.

    August 5, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  4. vic , nashville ,tn

    This is political arena Harry Reid gave very good punch. Even today media talking about Mitt Tax return

    August 5, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  5. george of the jungle

    I think that is great that Harry found a way to put pressure on mitt. Don't tell me the repos havent made up enough stuff Like the birth certificate. Turn around is fair play. Show us your tax returns milk toast. PS when is Linsey going to come out. ????Forward 2012

    August 5, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  6. GonzoinHouston

    Zero taxes probably is a lie, but far from the most outrageous lie we've heard from Congress. What is more likely is that Romney has paid embarrassingly little in taxes which, while legal, would still outrage voters. It's a no-win situation for him. I might feel some degree of sympathy for him, but then I think of Trump and the birthers' campaign. Enjoy that sauce for the gander, right-wing!

    August 5, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  7. mike sworth

    POTheadUS has already sicked the iRS on Romney and found nothing

    August 5, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. Wake up people

    Sorry Wanderer, President Obama HAS released his birth certificate but the baggers say it's fake. Now they want his transcripts but feel we don't have a right to Willards tax records. Hypocrites.

    OBAMA 2012!

    August 5, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  9. sayer

    Romney has a real opportunity to prove Reid has "gone over the line," so why doesn't he release the tax returns? Because Reid is right on this one.

    August 5, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  10. JDS

    Is it correct that he has released the full 2010 return? I read that even 2010 was not complete. Regardless, who would not assume after all of this that releasing the returns would not do great harm to his campaign? Romney has stood firm on NO other issue as far as I can tell.
    This is a strange thing to take a stand on if he has nothing to hide. Even his supporters must wonder.

    August 5, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  11. chuck weidemann

    McCain says there is nothing " disqualifying" in Romneys returns.....that says he didn't cheat. So what doesn't Romney want us to know??? How wealthy he really is? What his actual tax rate is? How much money Bain paid him those years he wasn't involved with them? Transparency seems to be a word his campaign likes.... But only for Obama?

    August 5, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  12. joe

    If you think Reid is lying, you can prove him wrong very easily. Release Romney's tax returns.

    August 5, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  13. California

    Hussein Obama is behind this whole thing. He has Reid doing this

    Reid, It's come to the peoples attention that you have embezzled funds from the senate.

    August 5, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  14. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Humm,
    I hear Harry Reid got Mitt mixed up with Tim Geitiner, Treasury Secetary. It was Tim that didn't pay his Taxes !!! But why quibble. Next thing you know Harry will exclaim, We Passed 3 Budgets these last 3 years.

    August 5, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  15. California

    Reid, You need to "put up or shut up".

    August 5, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  16. flowersunshineandgymsocks

    All of this B.S. from Romney and McCain..."I paid 100% of what I owed"..."nothing in those returns disqualified him". This is all semantics. People have a right to know what he received from Bain when he said he wasn't there and what loop holes he used and how far he stretched tax law.
    If Americans vote for this man who won't show the requested tax returns you deserve him after you end up back in the twilight zone of the BUSH years.

    August 5, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  17. Thomas

    I thought Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was still looking for WMDs in Iraq ?

    Romney doesn't want to show who he invested with , how he hedged to avoid loss , who and where he was banking .

    He paid his taxes .

    August 5, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  18. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    It's very simple: release the tax returns, Mr. Romney. And as for Sen. Graham, don't ask don't tell has been repealed. It's safe to come out now.

    August 5, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  19. Jsd

    I have a bigger problem if the senate majority leader used the floor of the senate to intentionally lie. If there was a problem with Romney's taxes, the IRS would\will resolve that.

    The reality is, people, like president Obama, couldn't understand Romney's taxes any more than he understands the economy. And this joke of of political item is just to keep the emotional, emotional.

    August 5, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  20. jpmichigan

    The hypocrisy to absurdity, of the Obama re-election ad visors to state that a Presidential candidate should be forthright in the giving of information about that candidate. Think back, how long did it take Obama to show his certified birth certificate? Tow almost three years, and the audacity of the Obama team to state that Romney is the most secretive candidate, is plain delusional on their part. Obama is far more secretive than Romney, more on the level of Nixon and we all know what that got Nixon, impeachment! Obama doesn't run of what he has really done to this country by way of regulations and favoritism of whom and what got the stimulus monies. The problem with Obama is that he doesn't take OWNERSHIP of what he has done that has failed this country, but is first to take credit from those who made an effort.

    August 5, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  21. Anonymous

    POTheadUS has already sicked the iRS on Romney and found nothing
    ------------------------

    That is a lie. There is no way that you could possibly have access to that info.

    Besides, Romney supporters keep acting as if Ried has said Romney has done something illegal, which no one is saying. They are saying he paid no taxes over ten years. If you are rich enough, your accountants can make sure you end up legally owing no taxes, unlike the 99% of us who cant afford that same team of accountants to wipe out our tax liabilities.

    August 5, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  22. Doc Rock

    POTheadUS has already sicked the iRS on Romney and found nothing
    ------------------------

    That is a lie. There is no way that you could possibly have access to that info.

    Besides, Romney supporters keep acting as if Ried has said Romney has done something illegal, which no one is saying. They are saying he paid no taxes over ten years. If you are rich enough, your accountants can make sure you end up legally owing no taxes, unlike the 99% of us who cant afford that same team of accountants to wipe out our tax liabilities.

    August 5, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  23. Mack

    Prove him wrong...Oh wait you can't because Romney is afraid to release his tax returns.
    btw – his 2010 returns are incomplete. CNN get on that please

    August 5, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  24. DJ

    For Reid to take a comment from one person and attempt to use it as a political tool shows the problems with in our government. Is he so worry about what is coming in November that he will go to lying to help his party?? Harry do not play the American people as fools!!

    August 5, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  25. Anonymous

    If they can make Obama provide his birth certificate to prove he's a citizen, then Romney can show us his taxes.

    August 5, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
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