Rachel Maddow’s Trump tax reveal offers rare look into president’s finances

Posted at 8:48 PM, Mar 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-14 21:55:32-04

NEW YORK — A portion of President Donald Trump’s never-released tax returns was revealed Tuesday night on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show and confirmed by the White House, which derided Maddow for publicizing the documents.

Maddow said her team obtained the federal returns — Trump’s 1040 form filed in 2005 — through David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and financial expert who wrote “The Making of Donald Trump.” She said the returns were “handed to” the reporter.

“These pages turned up the other day in his mailbox,” Maddow said while holding up two sheets of paper.

The White House pushed back preemptively ahead of the show’s live airing, saying Trump made more than $150 million in income in 2005 and paid $38 million in income taxes that year, and criticizing the show for publishing the documents.

That $38 million was in addition to “paying tens of millions of dollars in other taxes such as sales and excise taxes and employment taxes,” a White House official said.

“You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago,” the White House said in a statement.

The White House added, incorrectly, that it is “totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns.” It also bashed the “dishonest media.”

As for where the documents came from, Johnston speculated that “it’s entirely possible” that Trump himself sent the pages to him, saying the president has a “long history of leaking information about himself when he thinks it’s in his interest.”

Johnston noted that the documents describe the types of income Trump earned but not the sources of that income, a detail he said is key to understanding the president’s financial relationships, potentially to other nations and world leaders.

Johnston said knowing more about Trump’s taxes would also offer insight into whether tax reform being pushed by the White House would directly benefit the president and his business beneficiaries.

Throughout the presidential campaign and after his election, Trump has said he will not release his tax returns while he is being audited by the IRS. The agency has said an audit does not legally prevent anyone from sharing their tax returns publicly.

Though they are under no legal obligation to do so, presidential nominees from both parties typically release their tax returns. Trump is the first president in some four decades not to show the public his filings.

His opponent Hillary Clinton released every year of her tax returns dating back to 1977, Maddow reported Tuesday night.

When challenged by Clinton over his allegedly having paid no income taxes, then-nominee Trump said “that makes me smart.”

Still, Trump’s refusal to release the documents hasn’t prevented some of his financial dealings from being publicized.

In October 2016, weeks before the election, The New York Times reported that based on Trump’s 1995 filings he may have avoided paying taxes for nearly two decades.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.