In a spectacular, unparalleled meltdown, live on MSNBC, anchor Rachel Maddow took more than 20 minutes to reveal news on President Donald Trump that she teased on Twitter.
What was the news? She wouldn’t say right away.
“Dems should return focus to Trumpcare tomorrow & the millions it will leave uninsured, not get distracted by two pages from ’05 tax return.”
But ultimately, it was Trump’s tax return. From 2005. A 12-year-old tax return. A tax return that showed Trump paid $38 million in federal taxes.
Yes, Maddow’s source — Daily Beast columnist David Cay Johnston — somehow got his hands on Trump’s tax return from 2005. Johnston apparently got a two-page 1040 form in his mailbox.
The Trump White House moved to preempt Maddow by releasing his 2005 tax return before the show aired.
The White House confirmed Trump made $150 million in 2005, and paid an effective rate of 25 percent, or $38 million, in federal income taxes.
Maddow and Johnston didn’t have much else to complain about. They noted Trump only paid 4 percent in regular federal income tax, but his tax bill got boosted by the Alternative Minimum Tax. Trump has called for ending the AMT, they noted.
So with only an effective 25 percent tax rate to go on, Maddow had to build a whole show of the 2005 return. It didn’t matter to her (or Johnston) that she undermined attacks on Trump, made for months, that he could have paid no taxes for two decades (a fact that Twitter users noted).
Maddow had a huge news hole to fill, and Maddow filled it with what longtime political analyst Stu Rothenberg called “fake news” in a tweet.
Speaking in an often conspiratorial tone, Maddow used the “news” of the 2005 tax return to link Trump to Russian billionaires who parked their planes close to Trump; to a corrupt Azerbaijani official; to Trump’s firing of U.S. attorneys; and to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Johnston did not discourage Maddow’s speculation. Instead, Johnston boasted he has been a journalist for 50 years and that Trump himself could have taken the time to have mailed the tax returns to Johnston’s upstate New York home.
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What Johnston didn’t disclose is he had to apologize in 2011 for claiming News Corp., the parent company of Fox News, received a $4.8 billion tax refund for four years.
Johnston has also been making claims about Trump and taxes since last year, when he published a book on Trump. And in a June 15, 2016, story, Johnston said he had “new evidence” that Trump that “does not pay income taxes.”
In October, Johnston told Business Insider “there’s very good reason to believe Trump’s been engaged in tax fraud.”
Twitter went crazy, accusing Maddow and Johnston of failing to deliver.
But perhaps most tellingly, Brian Fallon, former spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, wanted to get off the topic ASAP.
“Dems should return focus to Trumpcare tomorrow & the millions it will leave uninsured, not get distracted by two pages from ’05 tax return,” Fallon tweeted.