Earlier tonight, Rachel Maddow announced what could’ve either been one of the biggest TV news moments in recent history or a huge and unnecessarily cruel tease. That’s because she hyped up the new episode of her MSNBC show by revealing on Twitter that she had come into possession of Donald Trump’s tax returns:
Shortly after that, she offered a little more information about exactly what she had, which turned out to be Trump’s 1040 form from 2005. It wasn’t exactly a full tax return from one of the last few years, but even the tiniest details could expose something surprising.
Maddow opened her show by explaining that the report on Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return was uncovered by journalist David Cay Johnston, who apparently found the document in his mailbox. Then, after about 20 minutes of preamble, Maddow finally showed the goods: One page, front and back, of tax-related numbers. She also confirmed that the 1040 form is real, and shared a statement from the White House that mostly said that everything is legitimate and that the media is breaking the law by publishing the tax return.
David Cay Johnston himself then joined the show, and he said that the numbers on the document do seem to check out. The important thing, according to him, is that Donald Trump was able to utilize something called the “alternative minimum tax,” which allowed him to get a 20 percent discount on his tax rate. Basically, that means he’s very rich and got special treatment because he’s very rich, which allowed him to pay his taxes at a much lower rate than you’d expect. Johnston noted that we still don’t know where all of his money came from in 2005, which actually could expose some troubling deals with Russian oligarchs or whatever, but that information wasn’t on this particular form. (It turns out that we’re not that lucky.)
As the show continued, Maddow and her guests repeatedly underlined why Donald Trump’s taxes are important, mostly focusing on the idea that it’s good to know where a politician’s money comes from in order to expose any possible conflicts of interest or—as people suspect with Trump—shady deals with foreign agents. In the end, though, the document that Maddow discussed on her show mostly just proved that Trump has a lot of money and that he was able to use that money to game the tax system in a way that normal people cannot.
You can see some video of Maddow discussing the tax returns below, and you can read a more in-depth analysis of the document from David Cay Johnston at this link (though his site went down during the MSNBC broadcast.)