RNC's Reince Priebus on Trump Controversies: 'People Just Don't Care'

Image: Reince Priebus
This Jan. 24, 2014 file photo shows Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus standing on stage at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in Washington.AP

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By Liz Johnstone

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus defended Donald Trump on several morning shows Sunday, saying that campaign traditions don’t apply to the presumptive GOP nominee.

Trump came under fire last week for refusing calls to release his tax returns, despite having indicated he was open to releasing the returns earlier in the campaign season. Voters, Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Friday morning, are not entitled to review his returns before heading to the polls, and the tax rate he pays is “none of your business.” Elsewhere, Trump insisted that not only was there nothing to learn from his taxes, but that the public wasn’t interested.

Some, including former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, disagreed. Romney called Trump’s refusal to release his returns “disqualifying.” Trump would be the first major party candidate since 1976 to not release even one year of tax returns.

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“I believe that the American people look at someone like Donald Trump and say, OK, here’s a guy on the outside. Here’s a guy that’s never run for office,” Priebus told ABC’s Jonathan Karl Sunday. ”And I just have to tell you, after a year of dealing with this primary, one on one — and you know it’s been a lot — I don’t think the traditional playbook applies, Jon. We’ve been down this road for a year. And it doesn’t apply. He’s rewritten the playbook.”

When Karl asked if that meant Trump doesn’t have to release his tax returns, Priebus said that would be up to the American people.

“They’re going to have to decide whether that’s a big issue or not,” Priebus said.

Priebus also responded to questions about Trump’s truthfulness with regard to whether or not he posed as his own publicist in 1991, as well as whether a New York Times report published on Saturday on how Trump treats women gave Priebus pause. On ABC, Priebus said the allegations in the Times story “are things that [Trump] is going to have to answer for.” But speaking with Fox News Sunday, Priebus said that voters just want an “earthquake” when host Chris Wallace asked if reports of Trump repeatedly mistreating women bothered him.

“Well, you know, a lot of things bother me,” Priebus told Wallace. “And obviously, I’m the wrong person to be asking that particular question.”

“Wait a minute. Why are you the wrong person? I mean, you are the chairman of the party. This is your nominee, and they’re saying that he has mistreated women over the years,” Wallace said.

“I’ve got to tell you, I think that all these stories that come out — and they come out every couple weeks — people just don’t care,” Priebus said.

The RNC chair argued that voters aren’t judging Trump based on his personal life or his past.

“I think people are judging Donald Trump as to whether or not he’s someone that’s going to go to Washington and shake things up,” Priebus said on ABC. “And that’s why he’s doing so well.”