In a stunning announcement that shook the political world, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow announced on Tuesday that she had obtained a copy of Donald Trump’s tax returns.
In the opening moments of her program, Maddow announced that MSNBC had obtained Trump’s 2005 tax returns, something she called a “little piece” of what was likely to be revealed from sources in the near future.
The first two pages of that return were obtained by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Trump biographer David Cay Johnston, who published an analysis of the return on his website, DCReport.org. According to the documents, Trump paid $38 million in taxes on a reported $150 million in income that year alone. He also took a large number of tax deductions.
Maddow said Johnston obtained the papers when they literally “showed up in his mailbox.”
The White House quickly responded by claiming that Trump has paid an estimated $38 million in taxes on more than $150 million in personal income and called the release of the documents “illegal.”
The full White House statement reads as follows:
Amazingly, Johnston says Trump may have leaked the return himself, noting the number of times the former real estate mogul anonymously leaked personal information about himself, his business, and even his family, “when it was in his interest.”
Maddow spent the first half of her program speculating on all the very serious reasons critics and even supporters of Trump want to see his tax returns—most prominently, potential business conflicts of interests with other nations, including Russia.
“There are petty reasons to be interested in the president’s tax returns,” she added. “Is he not as rich as he says he is?”
But whether someone’s interest in big or small, the numbers and historical context don’t lie.
“More than a million people have signed a petition demanding that he release his tax returns,” Maddow said.
Maddow first made the announcement via Twitter:
This was quickly followed by a confirmation from Trump biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who reportedly obtained the documents:
As the minutes ticked down to the airing of her show, word leaked that MSNBC had only obtained one year of Trump’s tax returns. Though that was still a huge break, as journalists have been clamoring for access to the president’s financial information since he first announced he was running for office:
At the top of her show, Maddow disclosed that the federal return form was handed by an undisclosed source to Johnston.
Typically, presidential candidates release their personal income tax statements. In recent years, some have held out until they secured their party’s presidential nomination after the primaries. Trump had promised to eventually release his returns, but then promptly broke that promise after winning the election last November. Trump claimed he was unable to release the documents because he was undergoing an IRS audit. He was the first such president in more than 50 years to refuse to do so. The last president who stalled their return? Richard Nixon.
“That excuse from Trump and the Trump campaign never made sense,” Maddow said, pointing out that the IRS has said that no such audit prevents an individual, including the president, from releasing their returns.