U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford — his days numbered in Congress — renewed his call for President Donald Trump to release his tax returns, saying the president's pro-Moscow performance in Finland mandates he clear the air.
Additionally, the South Carolina Republican said it would be in the GOP's best interest to take up the push in light of Trump's coziness with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.
Sanford suggested Trump's initial failure to condemn Putin and Russia for tampering in the 2016 election may have been tainted by factors that might be discernible in tax documents.
"Doing so eliminates questions, and there are many these days surrounding the president’s motivations," Sanford, of Mount Pleasant, said in a statement to The Post and Courier on Wednesday.
"This is particularly the case since Helsinki," he continued. "So in the interest of moving past this, I continue to believe it is in both the president's and the Republican Party’s best interest for the tax returns to be released."
Sanford disclosed his returns when he was South Carolina's governor, but in his statement he said he feared a trickle down effect of other governors keeping their finances buried might arise if the president is allowed to keep his out of view.
Trump's cloaking “will leave clouds and questions surrounding the president's actions ... and give license to governors in this country skipping what has been a 50-year tradition of transparency,” he said.
For months Sanford has been one of the very few Republican voices in Congress to repeatedly press that Trump release his tax returns, something Trump has defied since his presidential campaign. Sanford's sparring with the president over his taxes, as well as the president's brash, sometimes uncivil demeanor, helped lead to his political downfall.
Sanford lost his re-election bid in the June 12 GOP primary for the state's coastal 1st Congressional District nomination to Summerville state Rep. Katie Arrington by a 51 percent to 47 percent margin, a difference of about 2,650 votes.
Arrington portrayed herself as a staunch backer of the president throughout her campaign, even receiving an 11th-hour primary day endorsement from Trump coming via Twitter hours before the polls closed.
She faces Democrat Joe Cunningham in November.
Arrington, meanwhile, refused to weigh in on whether she believed Trump's taxes should be released, with her campaign issuing a "no comment."
She did, however, say she appreciated "the president clarifying his comments yesterday and reaffirming the fact that he trusts our nation's intelligence community on this matter."
At the summit, Trump steered clear of any confrontation with Putin, saying he accepted his word that Russia had nothing to do with tampering in the election, as multiple U.S. intelligence agencies contend.
"I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
"He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said.
Following his return to the United States from Finland, and after a national bipartisan backlash, Trump on Tuesday sought to clarify his comments.
"The sentence should have been, 'I don't see any reason why I wouldn't, or why it wouldn't be Russia' " instead of "why it would," Trump said.
Sanford's differences with Trump are many and continued even after his primary defeat. When Trump came to Cayce last month to stump for Gov. Henry McMaster ahead of his GOP runoff race against Greenville businessman John Warren, the president unloaded on Sanford again.
Trump told the crowd, "I can't stand that guy." He then brought up Sanford's 2009 extramarital affair, an incident in which Sanford said he was "hiking the Appalachian Trail" when he was really on a trip to Argentina to see his mistress.
"The Tallahassee Trail — must be a beautiful place. Unfortunately, he didn't go there," Trump said, misspeaking.
Trump also badmouthed Sanford during a meeting with the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group Sanford is a member of, calling him a "nasty guy."
Some members of Congress reportedly booed the president for his comments. Trump denied the reports, tweeting the following day that Republicans "applauded and laughed loudly" when he picked on Sanford.