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WH Sidesteps Reid Vs. Romney Tax Return Controversy

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today deflected questions about whether the White House would back Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s allegations about Mitt Romney’s tax obligations.

Speaking to reporters, Carney refused to answer questions about the Nevada Democrat’s repeated contention that an unnamed source connected to Bain Capital told the Majority Leader that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee has not paid taxes in 10 years. Reid has refused to reveal his source and his claim is unsubstantiated, but he has said Romney can disprove his allegations by releasing multiple years of tax returns.

“I’m not aware of the White House speaking to Sen. Reid about this issue,” Carney said. “You all probably know Sen. Reid well, and you know he speaks for himself.”

Pressed if the White House believed in the accuracy of the information from Reid’s alleged source, Carney deferred to Reid, noting that he has a long track record of not taking orders from others.

“I would refer you to Sen. Reid.” Carney said. “Only Sen. Reid knows his source.”

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, told Fox News today that he would “triple down” on a statement that he made Sunday calling Reid a “dirty liar.” Several Republicans also have made unsubstantiated charges that Reid made the claim at the behest of the White House, and Romney himself said last week that Reid should “put up or shut up” about his taxes. Romney insisted he has paid taxes every year, “a lot of taxes.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gave a modest defense of Reid in an interview published today by the Huffington Post.

“Harry Reid made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact,” Pelosi said.

While Pelosi defended Reid against the suggestion that the source was made up, she did not address the accuracy of the substance of the allegation. “Harry Reid is a person who is, as we know, A, is a fighter, B, he wouldn’t say this unless it was true that somebody told him that,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi and other Democrats echoed Reid in saying Romney could prove whether or not Reid is lying by releasing additional years of returns. Carney pushed for that again today.

“It’s not always every candidate’s favorite part of the process, but it’s a tradition that’s important to the American people as they decide who should be president,” Carney said.

Democrats also continue to try to use the issue of Romney’s tax returns to highlight their call for allowing the tax rates from the George W. Bush-era to expire on upper-income taxpayers.

Romney has released his 2010 tax return and a summary of his 2011 return, promising that he will release the full 2011 document when he files it sometime in the next few weeks. But Democrats and a handful of conservatives have argued that presidential candidates need to release more information. Romney’s father released 12 years of returns when he ran for president in 1968, according to published reports.

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