Rachel Maddow of MSNBC today announced she had a big exclusive: a copy of President Donald Trump's tax returns from 2005. She promised she'd reveal the details on her show tonight at 9 p.m.
Unfortunately, she has decided that she should open her show by using her captive audience to babble on and on and on about every single thing she thinks about corruption in the Trump administration, sounding like the guy at the gym you never, ever make eye contact with. The Daily Beast has some analysis from the source of the leaked returns, David Cay Johnson of DCReport.org. And you don't have to endure a 15-minute monologue first:
Donald Trump earned more than $150 million in the year 2005—and paid just a small percentage of that in regular federal income taxes. Daily Beast contributor David Cay Johnston has obtained what appear to be the first two pages of Trump's 2005 federal income tax return, and published an analysis of those pages on his website, DCReport.org. The Daily Beast could not independently verify these documents.
The documents show Trump and his wife Melania paying $5.3 million in regular federal income tax—a rate of less than 4% However, the Trumps paid an additional $31 million in the so-called "alternative minimum tax," or AMT. Trump has previously called for the elimination of this tax.
"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," the White House said in a statement. "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."
The actual tax return info itself doesn't sound particularly interesting or damning. Note that this is the same tax year where Trump had previously gotten a major tax deal. Probably the bigger news is that Trump insisted and insisted and insisted both before and after the election that he could not release his tax returns because he was being audited. It became very clear very quickly that this is nonsense and many people have said so. But hilariously, before Maddow even made it on the air, the White House responded by confirming the number (ruining her scoop) and then complaining that providing the information is illegal. So the White House just deflated Trump's previous argument that he couldn't release his tax documents. But they also responded in a way that attempts to cast Trump as some sort of victim of an "illegal" disclosure that wouldn't have happened had he been transparent in the first place.
I'm hesitant at this point to even suggest that anything valuable at all will come from this info leak other than the continued polarization of two sides. The fact that Trump refused to release his returns for the dumbest of reasons didn't seem to affect those who voted for him. His angry response was to attack the media and then promise to stick with his own agenda. So it's perhaps political business as usual. Still, it's a net good for public transparency that Americans get this information and are able to evaluate it and decide for themselves whether they should care.
Update: The lack of any sort of smoking gun in the tax filings and the fact that they're apparently labeled "client copy" are already leading to theories that Trump himself had them leaked.