On her show Tuesday evening, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow publicly presented what she says is part of President Trump’s 2005 tax return – and even after major buildup by the news organization, the “big story” about the president’s taxes appeared to fall flat.
During “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the host said MSNBC obtained the two-page 1040 form from David Cay Johnston, columnist at the left-leaning Daily Beast. Trump reported $150 million in income and paid $38 million in taxes.
Johnston had promised on Twitter to “break a big story about Trump and his taxes.”
“For some reason that we cannot discern, this document has been made available,” Maddow said. “This document was handed to a reporter.”
Maddow did not appear to know who provided the return to reporters. She said Johnston “found the return in his mailbox.”
“It’s entirely possible that Donald sent this to me,” Johnston said. “Donald has a very long history of leaking material about himself when it serves his interests. … With Donald, you never know. Donald creates his own reality. He says things that aren’t true. … So I think I have to include that in the list of possibilities of where it came from.”
Maddow said Trump’s reasons for not releasing his tax returns “don’t make any sense.”
“When you get excuses that don’t make sense, you have to look for an explanation,” she said.
Maddow and Johnston said they still don’t have any information revealing the sources of Trump’s income.
“There must be something hiding in his returns,” Johnston said.
Johnston listed things he believes “Trump wants to hide,” including alleged connections to Russians.
Maddow questioned Trump’s sale of his Palm Beach, Florida, home to Russian billionaire investor Dmitry Rybolovlev for $60 million more than Trump paid for the house. Trump had purchased the home at a steep discount at a 2004 auction.
But that information has been available since at least July 2016, when Trump disclosed the transaction when asked about his contacts with Russia at a news conference.
“What do I have to do with Russia? You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida … for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million including brokerage commissions,” Trump said at the time.
Maddow had tweeted before her show: “BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC.”
The White House released some details on the 2005 taxes before Maddow’s show, stating that Trump paid $38 million in taxes on an income of $150 million.
The White House also blasted Maddow for her report, saying she is “desperate for ratings.”
The following is the White House statement:
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. Before being elected President, Mr. Trump was one of the most successful businessmen in the world with a responsibility to his company, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required. That being said, Mr. Trump paid $38 million dollars even after taking into account large scale depreciation for construction, on an income of more than $150 million dollars, as well as paying tens of millions of dollars in other taxes such as sales and excise taxes and employment taxes and this illegally published return proves just that. Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns. The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans.
Trump also fired back at MSNBC on Wednesday morning.
“Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, ‘went to his mailbox’ and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!” Trump tweeted.
Just last month, thousands of anti-Trump protesters vowed to “moon” Trump Tower in Chicago for 10 seconds, an action they believed would send Trump “a powerful message ” and convince him to release his tax returns.
The event was in response to a statement from Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, who told ABC’s “This Week” that Trump doesn’t have plans to release the records.
“The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” Conway said. “We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care. They voted for him, and let me make this very clear: Most Americans … are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.”
In late January, WikiLeaks offered to post Trump’s tax documents online.
“Trump’s breach of promise over the release of his tax returns is even more gratuitous than Clinton concealing her Goldman Sachs transcripts,” WikiLeaks wrote on Twitter.
WikiLeaks also publicly encouraged individuals to leak the documents.
One tweet read: “Trump Counselor Kellyanne Conway stated today that Trump will not release his tax returns. Send them to: https://wikileaks.org/#submit so we can.”
in October, the New York Times published Trump’s tax documents from the 1990s. His returns showed he received tax benefits from failed projects nearly three decades ago, including casinos in Atlantic City, the Plaza Hotel and an airline he owned from 1989 to 1992.
A WhiteHouse.gov petition calling on Trump to release his taxes has racked up nearly 1.1 million signatures since January.
Also in January, a HeatStreet investigation found nine MSNBC personalities had tax liens filed against them.