BY NAOMI JAGODA
03/14/17 ΤΗΕ HILL
The White House on Tuesday night preemptively released some details of President Trump’s income and taxes he paid in 2005 as MSNBC teased leaked documents ahead of an evening broadcast.
Trump reported $150 million in income and paid $38 million in federal taxes, the White House said in a statement.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow had teased Tuesday evening that she had Trump’s Form 1040 from 2005. Fellow anchor Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted before her show, “This is the night we’ve been waiting for.”
After apparently being warned by the network about the impending story, the White House quickly released the major numbers itself shortly before the broadcast — slamming MSNBC in the process.
“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,” the statement read. “Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns. 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.”
Maddow said the federal document was mailed to David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author of the recent book “The Making of Donald Trump.”
The White House said Trump had a responsibility “to pay no more tax than legally required.” Trump claimed a $103 million deduction and paid $5.3 million in federal income tax. The rest came mostly as an alternative minimum tax payment — originally created to help prevent tax avoidance by wealthy filers.
“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. “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 [sic], 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 quick publication of the information by the White House seems to run contradictory to Trump’s repeated pledges not to provide tax information due to an IRS audit. However, the IRS has said that nothing prevents someone from releasing their own tax information.
Trump became the first major-party presidential nominee in decades to refuse to make his tax returns public.
Some information about Trump’s tax history had been previously reported during the campaign.
The Washington Post last May showed that Trump paid no federal income tax for two years in the late 1970s because he reported having negative income in those years. Politico reported in June that Trump may have paid little or no taxes for two years in the early 1990s. And The New York Times reported in October that Trump reported a $916 million loss on his 1995 returns, which could have allowed him to pay no taxes for up to 18 years.
Democratic lawmakers, as well as several Republican politicians, have called on Trump to release his returns, many concerned that the documents would reveal suspect financial ties, particularly to Russia.
Since Trump has taken office, Democrats have repeatedly sought to get Congress to request Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department. Under federal tax law, the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee and Joint Committee on Taxation can make such a request so that returns can be reviewed in a closed session.
Democrats have sent letters to the Republican chairman of the tax-writing committees, urging them to request Trump’s tax returns. They have also forced Republicans to take recorded votes relating to Trump’s tax returns in the House Ways and Means Committee and on the House floor.
Two Republican lawmakers, Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.), joined one of the letters, and Jones voted with Democrats in the most recent House floor vote related to Trump’s tax returns.
But Republicans have blocked Democrats’ efforts. The GOP chairmen of the congressional tax-writing committees have said it would be an abuse of their authority to request Trump’s tax returns.
New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof tweeted last week that IRS employees could send him Trump’s tax returns. Under federal tax law, it is illegal to release a taxpayer’s return information without authorization.