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Story highlights

Donald Trump Jr. spoke about his father's voluminous tax returns

He said releasing the returns would lead to questions that would detract from his father's message

(CNN) —  

Donald Trump’s son has a new reason to explain why his father won’t release his tax returns: They’ll steal from his political message.

“Because he’s got a 12,000-page tax return that would create … financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would detract from (his father’s) main message,” Donald Trump, Jr. told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in a piece published Wednesday.

That’s a dramatic shift from the Republican nominee’s longtime explanation that an ongoing audit is preventing him from releasing his tax returns. (There are no laws barring Trump from disclosing his tax returns while he is being audited).

The comment reflects the political potency of Trump’s tax returns. There are growing questions about what’s in the documents, including details of investments in foreign countries. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, said Thursday that presidential candidates should release their tax returns.

“I released mine,” Ryan said. “I think we should release our returns. I’ll leave it to him when to do it.”

Former Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, sought to connect Trump Jr.’s comments with the campaign’s longtime audit explanation. In a Thursday interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room,” Kingston said releasing the tax returns could influence the IRS audit process.

“If you put it on the table, you’re going to have 300 million Americans second-guessing what is this, what is that?” Kingston said. “That actually, I think, would influence the IRS because they would say, ‘Oh, wait, somebody out in Idaho said this. Somebody in Chicago said that. Somebody in New York said this.’ Then they’re off chasing things.”

Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday that putting out the returns would lead to misinterpretations.

“With a $10 billion business, if Donald Trump dumped his taxes out today, there would be all kinds of misinterpretations of that and maybe some real interpretations of that between now and November. That would be the only discussion we’d have,” King, a Trump supporter, said on “New Day.” “So I’d say the window is closed on that but I wish he had done so last March or April.”

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has released nearly four decades of tax returns.