David Cay Johnston, the reporter who obtained Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns and shared them Tuesday on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” won a Pulitzer in 2001 for his coverage of loopholes in the U.S. tax code.
Johnston, who was working for the New York Times at the time, said the returns showed up in his mailbox. It’s clear why someone might have chosen him to receive the records: Johnston won the $7,500 prize for what the Pulitzers described as “his penetrating and enterprising reporting that exposed loopholes and inequities in the U.S. tax code, which was instrumental in bringing about reforms.”
Johnston, now a columnist for The Daily Beast and other outlets and the author of “The Making of Donald Trump,” is launching a news operation called DCReport that Johnston’s website says will feature journalism “that scrupulously and meticulously scours the public record to report what’s really going on inside your Congressional committee rooms, your executive branch departments, your regulatory agencies and, yes, your White House.”
Trump’s tax returns have been a white whale of the news media since the Republican primary campaign because of Trump’s refusal to release them. Presidential nominees have released their returns going back decades, in the name of transparency with the American people. But Trump has deeper and more intricate business connections than any past president.
Johnston said that while he didn’t know who sent him the tax records, he believed it was possible they came from Trump himself.
“It’s entirely possible that Donald sent this to me,” Johnston told Maddow. “Donald Trump has over the years leaked all sorts of things, the very sleazy girl-on-girl pictures of the first lady in the New York Post may have come from Donald. The front pages of the state tax returns… that were sent to the New York Times… last fall may have come from Donald. Donald has a long history of leaking material about himself when he thinks it’s in his interest.”
The White House said in a statement Tuesday that it was “totally illegal” to publish a stolen tax return, but confirmed Johnston’s report that Trump paid $38 million in taxes in 2005. Johnston said Trump earned about $150 million that year.