President Donald Trump on Wednesday denounced the release by journalists of a portion of his 2005 income tax form as "fake news", just hours after his administration appeared to confirm the accuracy of the documents.
Two pages from the president's 2005 tax returns were disclosed on Tuesday evening by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow after being mailed to David Cay Johnston, a former New York Times reporter. They show Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes on reported income of $150 million, an effective tax rate of 25 per cent.
The White House confirmed those numbers before the show and appeared to accept the document's authenticity by criticizing a story "about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago" and stating that it is "totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns".
But in a Twitter message posted just before 7 am, the president appeared to backtrack from that acknowledgment. “Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, “went to his mailbox” and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!”
During an appearance on Maddow’s show on Tuesday night, Johnston speculated that Trump might have leaked the pages of his own tax returns even though he was the first modern presidential candidate to refuse to publicly release them.
“It’s entirely possible that Donald sent this to me,” Johnston said, though he added that he did not know whether that was the case. “It’s a possibility, and it could have been leaked by someone at his direction.” Maddow trumpeted the returns as “breaking news” on Twitter an hour before her 9pm show began, raising expectations that her report would reveal striking financial news about the president.
Instead, the two pages largely confirmed that Trump made a significant amount of money in 2005 and paid millions in taxes after writing off about $100 million in business losses that reduced the overall tax payment. One of Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr, made that point in a Twitter message shortly after the show ended, thanking Maddow for releasing the information.
“Thank you Rachel Maddow for proving to your #Trump hating followers how successful @realDonaldTrump is & that he paid $40mm in taxes! #Taxes,” it read.
– New York Times service