In another major leak for the White House, MSNBC on Tuesday night released a portion of President Trump’s 2005 tax documents – drawing a stern rebuke from the administration.
Host Rachel Maddow said the two-page summary of Trump’s federal return for that year was first obtained by journalist David Cay Johnston, who gave MSNBC a first look at the documents.
It is unclear who leaked them. Johnston, with the website DCReport.org, said only that he found the documents “in the mail.”
Citing the files, they said Trump made over $150 million that year and paid over $36 million in taxes, which Johnston suggested was relatively low and the result of a benefit.
The White House, while roughly confirming those numbers, pre-emptively pushed back minutes before the on-air report, saying that publishing the returns would be 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 senior administration official said in a statement.
The official added it is “totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns.”
The statement acknowledged Trump made over $150 million that year, while saying he paid $38 million in income taxes – noting he had a responsibility to his company and family “to pay no more tax than legally required.” The statement said he also paid “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.”
Maddow countered “it is not illegally published.”
The report follows unsuccessful efforts by Democrats since the start of the 2016 presidential campaign to pressure Trump’ to release the documents. Last month, House Democrats even tried to force Trump to give them to Congress, only to be blocked by majority Republicans.
Maddow’s report also points to what could be another significant leak inside the federal government meant to embarrass the new president. In his first two months on the job, reports have surfaced with sensitive details about Trump’s calls with foreign leaders as well as details from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
Trump last month blasted what he termed “illegal leaks.”
The president’s tax documents were a top target for critics throughout the 2016 race. Despite indications from Trump early on that he would follow a decades-long tradition of presidential nominees making their returns public, he later balked.
He cited an IRS audit as the reason he did not want to release the documents, while also saying at a September debate that he’d release them if Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton turned over the thousands of emails deleted from her private server.
She didn’t. In January, after Trump was sworn in, Counselor Kellyanne Conway told ABC’s “This Week” that Trump was not going to release the returns.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.