U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter early Wednesday in an apparent attempt to discredit a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and tax expert who said he unexpectedly received, by email, two pages of Trump's 2005 tax returns.
Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, "went to his mailbox" and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2017
The White House issued a statement late Tuesday saying President Donald Trump had more than $150 million in income in 2005, on which he paid $38 million in income taxes, and blasted a television report disclosing his official tax returns as an illegal act.
The statement was issued before a report broadcast by MSNBC-TV. Network host Rachel Maddow revealed what she said were two pages of Trump's 2005 tax forms and credited David Cay Johnston as the source of the information.
Johnston told Maddow he found the two pages in his mailbox. He said he did not know who sent them, or why.
Copies sent to White House
Maddow said she sent copies of the forms to the White House for comment. The administration issued its public statement before her program went on the air Tuesday night.
In its pre-emptive statement, the White House said, "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 added, "Before being elected president, Mr. Trump was one of the most successful businessmen in the world. 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."
The snapshot of the 2005 return was largely favorable to the president, who has claimed he has paid his fair share of taxes.
On ABC's 'Good Morning America' Wednesday, Johnston said it was possible he received the two pages of Trump's 2005 tax return from Trump himself or someone close to him. "Donald has a long history of leaking things about himself," said Johnston.
Johnston said the most important information missing from the return are the sources of income because it would disclose "who he's beholden to" and confirm or deny allegations of controversial ties with Russian businesses.
Trump's tax return also shows business losses of $103 million that year and that he paid an effective tax rate of 24.5 percent. That is much higher than the roughly 10 percent the average American pays each year, but below the 27.4 percent that taxpayers with average incomes of $1 million were paying in 2005, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
Trump's 2005 return shows most of Trump's tax bill that year was due to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which is aimed at preventing high-income earners from paying minimal taxes.
The AMT requires many taxpayers to calculate their taxes under regular income tax rules and a second time under AMT, and then pay the higher amount.
Without the AMT, Trump would have avoided paying all but a few million dollars of his 2005 tax bill.
On his campaign website, Trump proposed eliminating the AMT, which is expected to rake in more than $350 billion dollars in revenues between 2016 and 2025.
Trump has long insisted that the American public is not interested in his returns, and has said little can be learned from them. But Trump's full returns would contain key details about things like his charitable giving, how much he made each year and what were the sources of his earnings.
This tax issue was a major point of attack from his campaign rival Hillary Clinton, who suggested Trump had something to hide.
Although Trump repeatedly said he could not release his current tax returns because he was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, a claim the IRS said is not correct, the issue caught the public imagination months ago. Since Trump took over the White House on January 20, more than one million Americans have signed an electronic petition demanding the president release his tax documents.
The White House has not said whether the president plans to release any of his annual tax returns while he is in office.