President Donald Trump questioned Wednesday morning on Twitter whether the journalist who revealed his 2005 tax returns on MSNBC had actually received them as claimed in his mailbox.
David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who revealed the document on MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s show Tuesday in a report confirmed by the White House, had said that the 1040 form had been mailed to him by an unknown source.
“Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, ‘went to his mailbox’ and found my tax returns?” Trump asked, adding, “FAKE NEWS!”
The two-page document shows that Trump paid about $36.6 million in federal income taxes on a $150 million income, months after a contentious presidential campaign in which the now-president refused to release his returns despite long-standing political precedent by presidential candidates. The White House, in a statement ahead of Maddow’s show Tuesday disclosing how much Trump had made that year, said Trump had paid $38 million in taxes.
Trump claimed repeatedly during the campaign that he was unable to release his tax returns because he was under audit by the IRS, though the agency countered Trump was free to release his personal tax information.
Johnston responded to Trump Wednesday morning with another tweet, pointing out that the White House had agreed the information in his document was accurate.
Trump’s 1995 New York tax returns were leaked in a similar fashion before the end of the presidential campaign, mailed anonymously to New York Times reporter Suzanne Craig. Those returns, according to the Times, showed that Trump could have avoided paying federal income taxes for nearly two decades by declaring a more than $900 million loss.
Craig told Maddow at the time that those documents had a return address from Trump Tower, without a name. Johnston, in appearing on the show Tuesday, did not reveal any information about a possible return address on his own document but speculated that it might have been Trump himself who sent him the returns to improve his reputation. The document aired on Maddow’s show did have a “Client Copy” stamp, suggesting the original tax returns belonged to someone close to Trump.
“It’s entirely possible that Donald sent this to me,” Johnston said on the show. “It’s a possibility, and it could have been leaked by someone in his direction.”
The White House, in its statement Tuesday night before Maddow’s show aired, criticized the program as “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 is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns,” the statement continued. “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.”