David Cay Johnston, the reporter who released Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” told Maddow on Tuesday that they may have come from Trump himself.
“I think I have to include that in the list of possibilities of where they came from,” said Johnston, the Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter who, according to Maddow, received the documents in his mailbox.
“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 longform 2005 tax document Maddow and Johnston unveiled Tuesday showed Trump paid $38 million in taxes, received a writedown of $103 million, and earned more than $150 million in that year.
“Mazel Tov,” Maddow said as she read the $150 million figure.
The White House confirmed in a statement issued just before the broadcast that Trump had paid $38 million.
One big takeaway, according to Johnston: Trump managed to pay a relatively low tax rate.
Johnston said Donald and Melania Trump paid the same tax rate as Johnston and his wife — who made about $400,000 a year. He said that the Trumps earned “$418,000 a day.”
Trump’s tax returns have been a white whale for the American news media since the presidential campaign, when Trump first refused to release them. That was a departure from all other presidential nominees in recent decades, who released their tax records in the interest of transparency. Trump has far more business entanglements than any previous president.
Before releasing the records, Maddow spent 19 minutes explaining why it was important that the American people be able to see them. The long windup served the dual purpose of explaining the news value of the returns, and — potentially — laying the groundwork for a legal argument that releasing them was in the public’s interest.
Even before Maddow released the information, the White House said in a statement that it was “totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns.” Maddow said the release was covered by the First Amendment.
Maddow stressed that U.S. citizens have a right to know if their president is receiving payments from interests in foreign countries — including Russian businesspeople, or anyone with criminal or terrorist ties. She said such payments could have national security implications — and that the American people have a right to know if Trump is “financially beholden to an individual, to an institution, to a country.”
Maddow said there were also “petty” reasons to see Trump’s returns — including to see if he has been honest about his income and charitable donations, and whether he has been under IRS audit.
Trump argued during the presidential campaign that he could not release his returns because he was being audited, though an audit would have no legal bearing on whether he decided to release the returns.
Maddow also said the returns would help reveal whether Trump would be “self-dealing” in his tax policies, and would support tax changes that might benefit himself and his family.