Donald Trump’s tax returns are perhaps the most sought after tax documents in political history, and cable TV host Rachel Maddow touted getting her hands on them Tuesday night.
Actually, it was just the top two pages from Trump’s 2005 returns.
And the White House itself released the few interesting figures before MSNBC could get them on the air.
Maddow herself admitted it was “only the start.”
The White House blasted Maddow as “desperate for ratings,” called it “totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns,” and blasted the “dishonest media.”
Firing a pre-emptive strike before Maddow took to the air on MSNBC, the White House revealed that Trump made more than $150 million in income in 2005 and paid $38 million in income taxes that year.
“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 read.
Later, reading from the returns, Maddow confirmed those numbers, adding that Trump took a “$103 million write-down” on his income that year.
And Maddow pushed back at the White House’s allegations, saying the First Amendment gives her the right to air his tax returns.
“It is not illegally published,” Maddow said.
Maddow started the brouhaha earlier Tuesday with a tweet.
“We’ve got Trump tax returns,” Maddow tweeted Tuesday night. “(Seriously).”
On air, the MSNBC anchor said she got the returns from journalist David Cay Johnston, who has written books about Trump and found the returns left anonymously in his mailbox.
Trump’s tax returns have been an issue since the Republican primaries. Unlike other modern-day presidential candidates, the New York billionaire and reality TV star has refused to make his public. Initially, he said he can’t because the Internal Revenue Service is auditing him.
More than 1 million people have signed petitions to the White House, asking that Trump release his full returns.
But in recent months, his aides have said he has no plans to air his finances even after the audit is complete.
“The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said on ABC News’ “This Week” in January.
“We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care. They voted for him,” she said. “And let me make this very clear. Most Americans are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.
“And, you know full well that Trump — President Trump and his family are complying with all the ethical rules, everything they need to do to step away from his businesses and be a full-time president.
“But on this matter of tax returns, people keep a — they want to keep litigating what happened in the campaign. People want to know that they’re going to get tax relief and he has promised that.”
Contributing: Associated Press