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. sjlucas

    Isn't this one easy to put to bed? Two weeks ago, GOP leaders were lining up to say that Gov. Romney should release his tax returns. Now, they are strangely silent on the issue. To me, that says that they now know that there is something in those returns that will hurt the campaign and possibly the overall GOP effort for the upcoming election. Senator McCain described what is in the tax returns as a distraction. Well, you can sure bet that if Gov Romney made millions while paying little to no taxes by taking advantage of loop holes afforded only to the wealthy ... voters will find that a HUGE DISTRACTION. Like I said, this one is easy ... Gov. Romney should release his taxes (like all other candidates do). The fact that he doesn't in the light of this ongoing controversy makes us all wonder what he is hiding.

    August 5, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. California

    The referendum continues...................

    Vote all democrats out in 2012 before they destroy the country even more.

    August 5, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Bman

    Yes Put up or Shutup! Williard!

    August 5, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. cardog

    What I continue to find amazing is you die-hards that want to still defend this "Corporate Raider", who has made millions of dollars on the backs of working people. Not only that, but he has taken that money and deposited it everywhere else but in the United States to avoid paying taxes.
    Those of you on the right, do you truely believe that one day you'll be wealthy and also be able to avoid paying your taxes? Mr. Romney may be qualified to run a business, but he is far unskilled to run a country. But we all know how you right wingers feel don't we? Anyone but Obama, right? No matter if your choice takes us over the economic cliff as what almost happened in 2007/2008. God, you people simply amaze me......

    August 5, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. jim

    "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

    why do the birthers continue to do it, then?

    August 5, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  6. Debby

    Revolting peasant I am independent and voting Romney and I could care less whats in his tax returns. He has made sound investments over the years and he will do that for our country to get us out of debt. Bill Clinton was a good investor to and he dug us out to and I don't even remember his tax returns. lol

    August 5, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  7. Gator

    Seems the only ones that care about this debate, as well as the Chck-fila debate, are the extreme idiots on either side. Romney clearly has something not to disclose by not revealing more like his father did. Shouldn't his father be the standard, not a former canidate. Additionally, unnamed credible sources with outlandish statements is just more pointless political games that achieve nothing. Simply put, the choice is between which is the lesser evil, not which is best for this nation.

    August 5, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  8. Bman

    Yes put up or shut up. Williard

    August 5, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. Chuck in Jasper Ga

    Of course a Republican would claim that a Democrat was lying when they repeat what someone told them. Instead of pressuring Robmey to release his taxes filings for the last 10 years that would lay this issue to rest. Seems to me Graham was one of misfit Republicans screaming that if Obama wanted to put the issue at rest about his "birth certificate" he would release the original. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, someone is lying. Do you freaking Republicans know what a hypocrite is?

    August 5, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. Phattee

    Reid knows exactly what he's doing, and that's putting the focus on Mitt's unreleased tax returns. The nuts on the right were fond of saying that the ridiculous birther issue would go away if Obama showed his long-form birth certificate. It makes sense, then, that Mitt's tax issue will go away if he shows his tax returns as every candidate for the last 40 years has, right?

    August 5, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  11. yogi

    There only question is WHY Romney does not want to release them. I bet in that one word a lot of trouble is hidden.

    August 5, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  12. Brian

    Reissue is an honorable and thought out man. He would not just throw this out there, like his Republican counterparts would do. Even if Reid is incorrect, it still keeps Romney on the hook. Prove Reid wrong, Mitt.

    August 5, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  13. Bob Ramos

    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.
    ----------------------------
    Anybody notice how carefully McCain is choosing his words? McCain did not say that Romney had paid taxes. Reid is saying that Romney did not pay taxes. Neither statement contradicts the other.

    By now, Graham and other prominent Repubs must be getting sick and tired of having to defend Romney over his tax returns. Especially since Obama has released his.

    There has to be something really damaging to Romney in those returns otherwise, he would have released them long ago. Obama and Company are delighted that Romney has taken the position he has since they can continue to use this issue until the returns are released or election day.

    On the unknown Bain investor – Romney must really be on edge because he must know who the guy is. Reid would never have said that Romney had not paid taxes unless that investor was a realiable source.

    August 5, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  14. California

    Reid is in fact setting a dangerous precedence. .

    August 5, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  15. Machette Man

    What is puzzling is if you want to buy a home you have to show several years of taxes. Mitt the twit wantos to get into thw whito house by not showing his taxes even for a home he does not have to pay for.

    But that is exactly how Mitt the twit want to get into the white house by purchasing it NOT THIS TIME MITT THE TWITT!!!!. i HAVE NOT WOKED IN 4 YEARS AND I STILL WANT TO SEE YOUR TAXES AND THIS TIME I MAY JUST VOTE OBAMA. ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttTTTTTTAXES

    August 5, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  16. Squigman

    Many Americans need to take issue with the entire republican party. Seems all was well in the nation, until a day when the republicans took control of the executive, as well as the legislative branches of the American government. Since that time there's been unfunded war(s), economic chaos, constant bickering and lies that are a daily focus of the news. Oh, my mistake. With the memory lapse of the people, the republicans should come out smelling like roses. After all, lies told often enough become truths. Just ask any creep from the republican party.

    August 5, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    If you notice mitt said he's paid his taxes. He didn't say he paid his income taxes. Mitt is lying

    August 5, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  18. rtdunham

    Sen Graham says he "thinks" Harry Reid is lying about Romney's taxes. He "thinks"? He doesn't know Reid's wrong? He doesn't know for a fact that Romney paid taxes in any of those ten years? Didn't the GOP vet their candidate? Surely that's something the party would know before putting forth a candidate.
    (And note: I think it's offensive for Reid to put forth such a claim without substantiation, without attribution. Still, Graham seems to have slipped up saying he "thinks" instead of "knows" that Romney paid taxes in all those ten years. It warrants followup by the press.)

    August 5, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. mikle

    I don't care about Romney income or his money . I care that American people income very poor . Thanks to Reid, Obama America go down.

    August 5, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  20. Veritas

    Nearly half of Americans do not pay any federal taxes – mainly because they don't earn enough. Romney has plenty of money – a lot of it off-shore. Releasing his tax returns will show how honest he was when noone was looking.

    August 5, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  21. glorydays

    There must be a whopper if a problem with those taxes, but we won't know until it's too late, as usual.

    August 5, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  22. Paul

    If Republicans can ask for the birth certificate of the President, than we can ask for the tax information of Mr. Romney. Fair is fair and it appears to me and many Americans that Romney wants to play by different rules – rules that only favor him.

    August 5, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  23. California

    The party of lying (democrats) are coming out swinging.

    August 5, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  24. Two Of AKind -

    Will someone with intelligence - that rules out bigotted Democrat supporters - please tell me how a common or garden BAIN INVESTOR would have access to the IRS CLOSED files of a taxpayer?

    If that "Bain Investor" got ANY information on Romney's CONFIDENTIAL IRS details from someone inside the IRS , then Court Proceedings are certain. For the person who "LEAKED" and for Harry Reid for publicising!

    Bearing in mind that Romney worked UNPAID an anintern; UNPAID for the Olympics and UNPAID for his Missionary work – there have beenat least 11 years when he had NO EARNINGS.

    Reid – who has his own skeletons in the closet needs to be VERY careful about accusing others of ANYTHING, especially unfounded.
    But hey! If it distracts from the recent Job figures disgrace [and LIES, unemployment is actually at 10.8%] and the approaching Fiscal Cliff.............what the hell!

    August 5, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  25. DFW Dann

    John McCain surely asked for more than 2 years worth of tax records when vetting Romney for VP and I haven't heard a single word from him about Reid's statement. I find it interesting that the only third party we can be fairly certain has first hand knowledge about the issue is remaining silent.

    August 5, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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