August 5th, 2012
11:00 AM ET
9 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. Edwin

    Reid plays hardball - that is well known. But he is also crafty, and he thinks his strategies through. He either figures this will force Romney's hand, or it will damage him a lot by his avoidance.

    August 5, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. DuluthMN

    Harry Reid represents the dignity of Democrat Senators. Any bets they're squirming about being painted as lowlife slimeball slanderers because their front man has trouble with his mouth?

    August 5, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. BEM684

    If I were Romney I wouldn't release them. We have loads of evidence of his financial decisions from his business and from his governorship. Why release something so personal if he doesn't have to? Obviously the Romney campaign doesn't think the public will care all that much, and I'm sure they don't. This will not make or break anybody's vote.

    August 5, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. Hawk in Texas

    Eric and california are tea party lover lovers. their posts told me that.

    August 5, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. rs

    Two Of AKind –

    As long as Republicans endorse the ever-idiotic "Birther conspiracy" against a duly elected President of the United States, requests tpo see one VERY wealthy man's tax returns seem pretty tame-especially when he is a proven liar.

    August 5, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Herb

    Who cares about anyones tax returns, other than the IRS. Is Reid saying the IRS is incompetent?

    I heard Harry Reid is a pedophile. I wonder how he will prove he is not?

    August 5, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  7. nmmell08

    Obama, show your real BS, not fake. Increased unemplyment from 8.2% to 8.3% means more jobs have been lost, than created. from Mark:

    Um you need to have a quick lesson on economics. The unemployment number went up b/c college students that graduated were added to the unempolyment numbers for the first time. In any other month, the number would fo gone down. Also what is a BS? If you mean BC than yes he has released short form in 2008 election and long form latter on.

    August 5, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
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