President Trump earned more than $150 million and paid $38 million in federal income taxes in 2005, according to figures released by the White House Tuesday night showing he paid a higher rate than the average wealthy person that year.
The White House released the numbers as they were being reported by MSNBC, which obtained them from financial reporter David Cay Johnston, who received two pages of Mr. Trump’s 1040 form and published them.
The White House, in a statement, confirmed the numbers but objected to the release, saying the return was “illegally published.”
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and Mr. Johnson said they did nothing illegal, and Ms. Maddow said her airing the details was protected by the First Amendment.
“For some reason that we cannot discern, this document has been made available. It has surfaced. It has been handed to a reporter,” she said.
Mr. Johnston even speculated that Mr. Trump may have sent the document himself, or ordered an underling to leak it.
He and Ms. Maddow reported on two pages of form 1040, but did not have any of the schedules or supporting documents that would detail all that went into Mr. Trump’s income or tax liability.
“There must be something hiding in his returns,” Mr. Johnston said.
With no details, though, he and Ms. Maddow engaged in speculation about what the president might be hiding, including whether his tax policy would benefit himself or his family, or whether he had business ties to Russia or Turkey that could skew his judgment.
Mr. Trump has refused to release his returns, breaking with tradition of presidential candidates going back decades. He has said he’s under audit and won’t release them until the IRS is done its examination.
The Democratic National Committee said the White House’s decision to confirm Mr. Trump’s income and tax numbers undercut that excuse.
“If they can release some of the information, they can release all of the information,” said DNC senior adviser Zac Petkanas. “The only reason not to release his returns is to hide what’s in them such as financial connections with Russian oligarchs and the Kremlin.”
In a statement released to MSNBC ahead of Ms. Maddow’s show, the White House said Mr. Trump was “one of the most successful businessmen in the world,” and had a duty to his family and his company to minimize the amount of taxes he paid.
The White House also charged that publishing Mr. Trump’s returns would be illegal.
“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 White House said.
Ms. Maddow said the interest in Mr. Trump’s taxes shields her.
“The First Amendment gives us the right to publish this return,” she said.
The document Ms. Maddow broadcast was stamped “client copy.”
She said the document showed up in Mr. Johnston’s mailbox this week.
Mr. Trump’s 25 percent tax rate was based on the fact that he paid the Alternative Minimum Tax, Mr. Johnston said. Without that, he could have paid a rate that would have put him in the lower half of American taxpayers.
But Mr. Trump’s 25 percent income tax rate is higher than the average taxpayer that year, who paid 12.5 percent of their adjusted gross income in taxes. Even the very wealthy top tenth of a percent of earners paid an average of 22.5 percent of their income in taxes — still less than Mr. Trump’s rate.
The president also topped the rate paid by President Obama and his wife during their time in the White House. They paid a rate of 19 percent on their 2015 income, and 20 percent on their 2014 income. Meanwhile 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney paid a federal rate of 14 percent in 2011.
Mr. Trump was far more wealthy than most taxpayers in the top tenth of a percent, which began at $1.8 million in income.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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