Sam Nunberg, Trump’s political adviser from 2011 to August 2015, tells CNN that during a meeting he had with Trump in the summer of 2013 at Trump Tower, the future president said he was comfortable releasing his tax returns and, even, that he thought it would be a good idea. Nunberg assumed this was because of how little Trump must pay in taxes.
“He thought he could defend the return,” says Nunberg, who did not himself view Trump’s returns. “I inferred from the conversation that he believed that it was a low number and he’d look savvy.”
A second person, a former senior adviser to Trump, who also joined them for lunch that day, recalls Trump being enthusiastic about releasing his returns for this reason.
Nunberg remembers that at the time Trump had recently returned from delivering a political speech in Iowa and that his motivation to look like a scrappy businessman was fueled by the failed presidential bid of Mitt Romney. “He felt that Romney had avoided looking successful,” says Nunberg. “Romney had posed beside a shopping cart in his jeans. Trump wanted to appear to be the opposite of that. He was proud of his business track record.”