It was the bombshell heard ’round the Internet: Rachel Maddow posted on Twitter at 7:36 p.m. ET that her show had tracked down a copy of Donald Trump’s long-mysterious tax returns, and that she would reveal the news on Tuesday night’s edition of her MSNBC show.
Later, she added that the returns were Trump’s 1040 form from 2005:
BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC.
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) March 14, 2017
What we’ve got is from 2005… the President’s 1040 form… details to come tonight 9PM ET, MSNBC.
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) March 15, 2017
The two-page 1040 form didn’t reveal much, other than showing that Trump paid $38 million in taxes, with a write down of $103 million, and his income added up to $150 million in that year. (Interestingly, much of that income may have come from NBC – specifically, “The Apprentice,” which launched in 2004.)
According to Maddow, the White House didn’t dispute the return, and issued this statement: “Mr. Trump paid $38 million even after taking into account large scale depreciation for construction, on an income of more than $150 million, 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.”
To that, Maddow responded: “For the record, the first amendment gives us the right to publish this return, it is not illegally published. Nor are we fake. Pinch me, I’m real. But good on the White House for acknowledging this return. But a full return for Donald Trump would be more than these two pages here. Why will he not release his full taxes the way other presidents have done? We have obtained this, but this is all we’ve got.”
“The Rachel Maddow Show” obtained the scoop from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston and his site, DCReport.org (which crashed due to the traffic surge during Maddow’s program). Johnston, whose specialties include taxes and tax code, joined Maddow to explain his findings.
Johnston told Maddow that he believed Trump, or sources close to Trump, may have sent him the returns (which showed up anonymously in Johnston’s mailbox). “It’s very possible Donald Trump leaked these to me,” Johnston said. “Donald has a long history of leaking information about himself when it serves his interest.”
Indeed, online sleuths noted that Maddow’s copy was stamped “CLIENT COPY,” which means it most likely came from Trump’s files. The release may have allowed Trump to claim that he has paid taxes, while simultaneously attacking the media for posting the returns. But it also once again surfaces the debate about Trump’s still mysterious taxes and his refusal to release them.
Johnston also expressed concern that the two-page return doesn’t include Trump’s income sources, and finds it strange that Trump is hiding his tax returns – suggesting that there must be a reason he’s hiding them. The lack of many details was met with disappointment among many viewers on social media, where the build up to the episode let to expectations that Maddow had a much bigger bombshell.
Regardless of how the news is received, or if it has legs, the scoop was the latest big win for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” which has seen its ratings explode under a Trump administration. Last week, “Rachel Maddow” was the top-rated primetime show among the cable news networks, among adults 25-54.
Trump’s taxes, of course, were a subject of much debate during the 2016 presidential campaign, as the Republican candidate refused to release copies of his tax returns – something that every major candidate (and president) has done for decades.
“I’m sure it’s just a start, but it’s a start,” Maddow told her viewers, after laying out the argument for why it’s so crucial that Donald Trump be transparent about his relationship with shady overseas forces.
According to Chris Hayes, who hosts the hour immediately preceding Maddow, the White House immediately took notice – and responded before Maddow even hit the air.
— Dustin Volz (@dnvolz) March 15, 2017
“It’s not just interesting stuff in the past that we have to worry about in the past,” Maddow said, connecting the dots between Trump’s ongoing business interests with Russians and some of his early hires and decisions.
Americans to deserve to know whether the president of the United States has “significant unexplained sources of income, particularly income of a foreign source,” Maddow said, explaining the need to see Trump’s taxes.
“This stuff is obtainable,” Maddow said of his taxes. “I believe this will not be the end of that.”
Below, watch Maddow and Johnston reveal their findings: