White House answers online petitions, ducks tax return issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — After more than a year of silence, the Trump administration is beginning to address a backlog of petitions signed by Americans on the White House website.

But the White House is ducking a high-profile petition calling on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns. That petition attracted more than 1.1 million signatures.

The White House said the tax-return question “is not within the scope” of the government feedback tool because the issue “does not address an action or policy of the Federal Government.”

The website, known as “We the People,” was launched by the Obama administration in 2011, and since Trump took office has taken on increased prominence as an outlet for protest. It was briefly taken down by the Trump administration last year but was relaunched in late January.

Along with the tax petition, which reached the 100,000-signature threshold for a response on Inauguration Day 2017, the administration hasn’t responded to one calling on the president to place his financial holdings in a blind trust.

The site has also been embraced by conservatives looking to push their priorities. The White House addressed an August 2017 petition seeking to declare as a terrorist organization “AntiFa,” a loose collection of self-proclaimed anti-fascist activists whose occasionally violent protests earned national headlines last year. The White House said Trump opposes violence and that federal law provides no “mechanism for formally designating domestic terrorist organizations.”