President Donald Trump’s friends, family, advisers, and supporters have been celebrating the release of his 2005 tax return – which showed he earned $150 million that year and paid roughly $38 million in taxes – as a win for the president against his critics.
Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. started the hashtag #ThankYouMaddow in response to Rachel Maddow’s much-hyped reveal of the tax return on MSNBC on Tuesday night. The tax return showed that Trump both earned more that year than his doubters thought and paid a higher income tax percentage than either President Barack Obama or former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 15, 2017
The tax return also debunked a theory that had been fueled by a New York Times report published last year that said Trump could have legally avoided paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years because he declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns.
The 2005 return, however, shows that Trump paid the bulk of his income taxes because of the alternative minimum tax, which was introduced in 1970 to keep the wealthy from paying less income tax than Americans with lower incomes. Trump has said he wants to abolish the AMT.
Trump’s son was not the only one reveling in Maddow’s rollout of the story. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the right-wing Twitter personality Mike Cernovich, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, the pro-Trump commentator Bill Mitchell, and the right-leaning Drudge Report were among those taking victory laps on Tuesday night.
Rachel Maddow has a REAL YUUGE story! Donald Trump is a rich man and paid a boat-load of taxes in 2005! Oh my! We never knew he was RICH!
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) March 15, 2017
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) March 15, 2017
So @maddow hypes the Trump tax returns, and they show he paid over 38 MILLION DOLLARS IN TAXES!
Way to disprove your own point. Ha! pic.twitter.com/EGfyhfxyP2
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) March 15, 2017
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) March 15, 2017
Kayleigh McEnany, a Trump supporter and CNN commentator, also chimed in, writing on Twitter that “the haters who were speculating Trump paid 0 in income taxes were… Wrong! #38Million.”
It’s unclear if this was the kind of reaction that either Maddow or David Cay Johnston, the investigative reporter who says he received the tax return in his mailbox, anticipated. Neither returned a request for comment.
Johnston speculated on Tuesday night that Trump or someone close to him may have leaked the tax return – a theory that is gaining momentum among commentators and analysts who say the return offers a favorable glimpse into something Trump has, for unknown reasons, seemed determined to hide.
Images of the 1040 forms were also marked with a “Client Copy” stamp, which suggests the documents were not leaked by someone within the IRS.
“Think abt calculus of leaker if he/she is hostile to Trump,” Noam Scheiber, a New York Times reporter, tweeted on Tuesday. “Im going to leak tax return showing he paid… $38m in 05? What’s that do for u?”
Trump Jr. tweeted that the media “got what they wanted” in obtaining Trump’s 2005 tax return. But it is Trump’s tax returns from 2008 onward that would contain any clues about his business ties to Russia, which is what some have speculated Trump is trying to hide by not releasing the documents.
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump Jr. told a real-estate conference in 2008. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
In 2008, Trump Entertainment Resorts missed a $53.1 million bond interest payment and filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and Trump sold a Palm Beach property to the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million – more than twice what Trump had paid for it in 2004.
Maddow said Tuesday night that she thought the real story of the 2005 tax return was that it was leaked to a reporter at all, showing that Trump’s tax returns are obtainable despite his assertions that they are under audit and therefore cannot be released.
“The only news out of this is that the White House CAN release the President’s taxes, despite what campaign said,” Mo Elleithee, a longtime Democratic operative, wrote on Twitter. “Which we all suspected.”
The White House on Tuesday called the interest in Trump’s taxes “desperate” and claimed that publishing the documents was illegal.
“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,” a White House official said.