(Media Release) It wasn’t the smoking gun President Trump’s critics had hoped for. Far from it.
Some even thought MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s apparent scoop on Trump’s leaked 2005 tax return made Trump look good. After all, the New York Times had once suggested that he had avoided taxes, others that he was faking the extent of his wealth.
Donald Trump Jr. even tweeted, “Thank you Rachel Maddow for proving to your #Trump hating followers how successful @realDonaldTrump is $ that he paid $44m in taxes!”
The White House got another opportunity to level (unfounded) accusations against someone committing high crimes: “You know you are desperate for ( free-pr-online.com) ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago,” said a White House spokesperson in a statement issued anonymously.
The document revealed nothing about the president’s financial ties, the subject of intense scrutiny from Democrats and others who think Trump may have concealed business relationships in Russia.
All told, Trump seemed to make it through the segment in pretty good shape — so good that a cyberspace chorus wondered for hours after the fact: Did Trump leak his own tax return?
Feeding the theory was the recipient of the two-page summary of the return, David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and tax expert who discussed it on Maddow’s show Tuesday night. The documents showed that Trump had earned $153 million that year and had paid $36.5 million in taxes — hardly the game-changing expose some believed it would be.
“It’s entirely possible that Donald sent this to me,” Johnston told Maddow. “It’s a possibility, and it could have been leaked by someone in his direction.”
Others noted that the tax return was labelled “client copy,” ostensibly indicating that it came from someone close to him, as opposed to the IRS.
“So,” said a blogger at Redstate.com, “either Donald Trump leaked this himself, or someone with a ‘client copy’ did. Given that there appears to be nothing embarrassing about the return whatsoever, and the world is laughing at Maddow, my money’s on Trump being the leaker. It’s probably the most favourable return for his narrative in existence.”
Part of President Trump’s 2005 tax return was just revealed on The Rachel Maddow Show
Trump paid about a quarter of his income in taxes that year.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said Trump may have released the documents to divert attention from debate over the GOP health care bill and the investigation into the administration’s ties to Russia:
Trump probably released the 2 pages to show he paid taxes once to divert attention from Russia & CBO report on #Trumpcare.Y no other pages? https://twitter.com/bcappelbaum/status/841825070150381568 …
What do ya bet that Trump himself leaked these tax returns to trol
Trump has also proven himself a master of deflection, habitually taking to Twitter to distract from the day’s controversies. As David Smith of the Guardian noted, “It would be a classic Trump tactic to deflect attention from his troubles with wire-tapping claims and replacing the healthcare law.”
The aggressive and impeccably timed responses from the White House and Trump’s surrogates only added to the speculation.
Breaking a four-decade tradition among presidents and major party nominees, Trump has repeatedly refused to release his tax returns, claiming he is barred from doing so because he is under audit. But that’s exactly what the White House did when it confirmed the authenticity of the documents presented on Maddow’s show, albeit in a limited sense.
As Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times suggested, “If all of Donald Trump’s federal tax returns are along the lines of this one, it would certainly be in his interest to publish them.”