Trump has long claimed that he was legally not allowed to release his tax returns because of an alleged “audit” that required him to keep them a secret. This has been repeatedly debunked by legal experts and tax experts — and now Trump himself. After learning Rachel Maddow had obtained his 2005 tax returns and was planning on breaking it on live television, Trump’s White House freaked out and released the tax returns themselves. So much for the audit lie.
The statement, like many of Trump’s reactionary tantrums, was light on culpability and focused mostly on whining about how unfair it was that his taxes would be released this way.
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.
Ironically, the question of whether the current president is in violation of the law – specifically conflict of interest laws – is exactly why Rachel Maddow and other investigative journalists are looking into Trump’s taxes in the first place. And because he is the first president in decades to flatly refuse to release them, “leaking” the documents to the public is the only way they’ll come to light.
WH responds to MSNBC report on Trump tax returns: "you know you are desperate when you willing to violate the law…" pic.twitter.com/DCedFdxWCc
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) March 15, 2017
Trump’s statement — which appears to have been hastily written, in part, by Trump himself — claims he paid around $38 million in taxes while pulling in around $150 million in income. The document, as summarized by the Daily Beast, goes into more detail:
The documents show Trump and his wife Melania paying $5.3 million in regular federal income tax—a rate of less than 4% However, the Trumps paid an additional $31 million in the so-called “alternative minimum tax,” or AMT. Trump has previously called for the elimination of this tax.
So in Trump’s ideal world, he would like billionaires like himself to pay a 4% tax while using loopholes and tax havens to avoid paying the lion’s share of what he owes. That’s pretty pathetic coming from a person who has been using his time in office to dismantle welfare programs and cut spending in the arts and sciences.
There is an alternative theory about the tax returns: Trump “leaked” them himself, all so he could freak out about it later.
Johnston: possible POTUS leaked returns – "Donald has a long history of leaking material about himself when he thinks it's in his interest."
— Betsy Klein (@betsy_klein) March 15, 2017
What would his “interest” be: One could argue that this might be the very best tax return he has. As reporters get closer to his more recent filings, he may have leaked this document to placate journalists, be seen throwing a tantrum, and hope that everyone moved on. If that’s the case, reporters should be encouraged to dig even harder. They have clearly struck a nerve.
Featured image via Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images