Rachel Maddow announced via Twitter earlier tonight that she had President Donald Trump's tax returns, and would be revealing them on MSNBC at 9pm. Immediately, people were speculating and freaking out.
David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist who specializes in tax issues, is the source by which MSNBC obtained the report. Specifically, Johnston received Trump's federal tax returns from 2005.
Maddow reported that the two-page 1040 report simply appeared in Johnston's mailbox earlier this week. "Donald creates his own reality," Johnston said when speculating that perhaps someone from Trump's team leaked the return themselves, a theory that surfaced in relation to previous Trump-related news leaks, like the nude photos of his wife Melania. And while we can't know how they appeared, we do know that the White House wasn't happy about the announcement.
The White House released a statement following Rachel Maddow's tweet that opens with, "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." It then went on to publish the numbers from the tax return ahead of Maddow's segment. Maddow made sure to clarify on air that the First Amendment allows them to release the tax return information, and Johnston further confirmed that journalists are legally allowed to receive anonymous tips.
Trump is the first president since the Watergate era to refuse to release his tax returns, The Atlantic reports. Presidents release their tax returns to show that they are in good financial standing and would not leverage their incredible position of power to for self-interest. Without knowing what Donald Trump's tax returns looked like, many feel they have no way of knowing whether Trump's decisions are affected by personal business endeavors. And that's why the public has been so adamant about their release.
So, what did we learn? Well, first of all that Rachel Maddow knows how to drag out a segment.
And ultimately, we learned that Trump paid $38 million in taxes, which is roughly 25% of his income. According to Johnston's own review of the information on The Daily Beast, Trump was still benefiting in 2005 from the net loss he reported in 1995 that surfaced during the campaign:
Trump’s 2005 return also shows that he’d continued to benefit from the roughly $916 million loss he reported in his 1995 return—published last year by The New York Times. Using a loophole Congress closed in 1996, Trump converted that loss into a tax credit for the same amount he could offset against income.
So, maybe this wasn't the bombshell everyone was hoping for. But hey, we learned a bit about the U.S. tax system in the process—just in time to finish up our own taxes.