One of the many, many controversies surrounding Donald Trump’s unconventional election campaign was his flat-out refusal to publish his tax returns.
Disclosing such information to the public, as is tradition for candidates, would have given voters a better idea about the billionaire business tycoon’s overall wealth and, if in order, rebuffed any accusations that he had avoided paying tax for years. Trump’s team have repeatedly claimed that an ongoing IRS audit has prevented him from doing so.
It’s been a sticking point for critics throughout the President’s short political career, which is why a tweet from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow whipped the internet into a frenzy.
She claimed that her team had managed to obtain Trump’s tax returns from investigative journalist and tax expert David Cay Johnston, who himself had been anonymously sent the 2005 “1040” form.
BREAKING: We've got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC.— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) March 14, 2017
The two-page document (just a small section of a much longer tax return) revealed that Trump paid $38m (£31m) in tax on more than $150m that year. When broken down, that figure comprises $5.3m in regular federal income tax and $31m in the alternative minimum tax (which Trump wants to abolish). The 1040 excerpt also showed that he wrote off $103m in losses. To cut a long story short, there was nothing incriminating for Trump denouncers to jump on.
Predictably, the White House had its response in circulation before the news segment had even aired. “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 said in a statement.
However, although they condemned the action as ‘illegal’ and ‘FAKE NEWS’, there’s speculation that the document could have been leaked by Trump himself. The information provided didn’t elaborate on the sources of his earnings or any business ties, and presented only basic figures. If anything, you could argue, it made him look good.
Johnston said he received the 1040 in the post without any details of a sender, and he floated the idea that the White House may have meant for him to see them. Bloomberg reporter Sahil Kapur also highlighted the “Client Copy” stamp.
Soooo... I'm guessing the White House leaked the returns. It makes Trump look like he paid a lot.— Dan Wilbur (@DanWilbur) March 15, 2017
It would arguably be a pretty risky move for the POTUS or anyone in his circle to intentionally shine a light on his tax affairs yet again, but without a known source it’s a popular view. Either way, comments that people don’t care about the issue don’t seem to hold much water.
I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but with each passing minute, I'm more convinced that Trump leaked this tax return. /1/— Fred Kaplan (@fmkaplan) March 15, 2017
Expect this one to roll on and on.