How MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Obtained President Trump’s 2005 Tax Return

Maddow broke open one of the biggest mysteries in America by sharing David Cay Johnston’s exclusive

Rachel Maddow

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow didn’t uncover Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns, but her show did manage to do the next best thing: Find someone who had.

The show landed an exclusive with Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter David Cay Johnston, who said he received Trump’s 1040 long form in the mail. Despite a White House statement that it was illegal to publish stolen returns, Maddow and Johnston said it was perfectly legal.

Why would someone give the documents to Johnston? It’s clear that he wanted them, and would understand them: He’s the author of “The Making of Donald Trump” and won his 2001 Pulitzer at the New York Times for his coverage of tax-code loopholes.

“There is absolutely nothing improper about journalists, if you haven’t solicited something, getting it over the transom,” Johnston told Maddow.

In fact, Johnston said, the leak may even have come from Trump himself — or someone working for him.

“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.”

Johnston said Trump “creates his own reality” and feels the possibility of Trump leaking the documents himself has to be considered.

Going against decades of tradition, Trump refused to release his tax information during the 2016 presidential election, despite calls to do so from Democrats, the media, a petition, and even members of his own party. But Johnston finally landed the white whale — or at least hacked off a chunk of it.