President Donald Trump’s friends, family, advisers, and supporters have been celebrating the release of his 2005 tax return — which showed he earned a whopping $US150 million that year and paid roughly $US38 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, which showed that Trump both earned more that year than his doubters thought and actually paid a higher income tax percentage than either President Barack Obama or former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
The tax return release also debunked a theory that had been fuelled by a New York Times report published last year that said Trump could have “legally avoided paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years” because he declared a $US916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns.
The 2005 return shows, however, that Trump paid the bulk of his income taxes because of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which was introduced in 1970 to keep the wealthy from paying less income tax than lower-income Americans. 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, right-wing Twitter personality Mike Cernovich, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, pro-Trump commentator Bill Mitchell, and the right-leaning Drudge Report were among those taking victory laps on Tuesday night.
Trump supporter and CNN commentator Kayleigh McEnany 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, had anticipated. Neither returned requests for comment.
Johnston speculated on Tuesday night that Trump or someone close to him may have leaked the tax returns — a theory that is gaining momentum among commentators and analysts who say the return offers a favourable glimpse into something Trump has, for unknown reasons, been determined to hide.
Images of the 1040 forms were also marked with a “Client Copy” stamp that suggested the documents were not leaked by someone within the IRS.
“Think about calculus of leaker if he/she is hostile to Trump,” New York Times reporter Noam Scheiber tweeted on Tuesday. “I’m going to leak tax return showing he paid … $US38m in 05? What’s that do for u?”
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 interest in Trump’s taxes “desperate,” and argued 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.
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
So @maddow hypes the Trump tax returns, and they show he paid over 38 MILLION DOLLARS IN TAXES!
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