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Soon after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th U.S. president, the official White House petitions page was scrubbed clean. Almost immediately, though, two new petitions sprang up, and one has already reached the 100,000-signature threshold that would garner a response from the White House.
As of this writing, the petition titled “Immediately release Donald Trump’s full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance” has reached more than 116,000 signatures in less than 24 hours, meaning the Trump administration now has 60 days to respond.
Through Trump, early in the campaign, promised to release his taxes, he never did, saying he couldn’t because many of his tax returns are under audit. In January, Trump flatly said he wasn’t going to do it, because “the only ones that care about my tax returns are reporters.”
But that didn’t stop petitioner Anil Dash—an entrepreneur and writer—from writing the following on the We The People petition page: “The unprecedented economic conflicts of this administration need to be visible to the American people, including any pertinent documentation which can reveal the foreign influences and financial interests which may put Donald Trump in conflict with the emoluments clause of the Constitution.”
At one point, the petition was so popular that Dash said 800 people were signing it per minute.
“I’m not surprised at the speed of signing—if the site had been fully working, it would have only taken three or four hours,” Dash told the Daily Dot on Saturday morning. “Most of the delay was because the site wasn’t operating well under that load.”
So, what’s next?
Next: keep amplifying the message & getting more people to sign. We need to run up the score to show the broad public demand on this issue.
— Anil Dash (@anildash) January 21, 2017
Despite all the criticism Trump has received for becoming the first presidential candidate in 40 years not to release his tax returns, does anybody really expect this petition to compel Trump to give the people what they want?
Not really. But that’s also not the point.
The second petition calls for Trump to divest from his businesses and have it placed in a blind trust in order to avoid conflicts of interest. As of 8:50AM CT, more than 33,000 had signed that petition. It has a month to reach the 100,000 signature mark that would compel the Trump administration to give an official response.
Ultimately, Dash doesn’t expect Trump to release his taxes, but he said he thinks Trump will eventually have to respond to the public outcry.
Said Dash: “He’ll probably deflect as he always does, but that will show the staffers in his administration that he won’t even follow an explicit written commitment made on his own White House website. … Most importantly, I want people organizing across the country to know we have a voice. We need good visible moments like this to galvanize our local officials into action. I also think it’s very useful to demonstrate to people inside Trump’s administration that he has no intention of honoring even his explicit written commitments to the American public.”
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.