There has been some speculation that President Trump orchestrated the tax-return leak that last night turned MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow into a Twitter sensation.
The Trump camp released one positive tax return to distract from Russia hearings and the Trumpcare meltdown. That's painfully obvious. https://t.co/NLBVPJhwg6
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) March 15, 2017
I love Rachel Maddow but she was played. DT's incomplete 2005 tax return distracts from a disastrous healthcare bill & Russia. #TrumpRussia
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) March 15, 2017
We may never know who passed along the two pages of Trump’s federal 2005 return to journalist David Cay Johnston, who shared them with Maddow. But in an advance clip from an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Trump gave his reaction to the umpteenth major-media event of his presidency.
“I have no idea where they got it,” says Trump of the two pages from his 2005 federal return showing that he paid $38 million in federal taxes on about $150 million of reported income. “But it’s illegal and you’re not supposed to have it. And it’s not supposed to be leaked. And it’s certainly not an embarrassing tax return at all, but it’s an illegal thing. They’ve been doing it, they’ve done it before and I think it’s a disgrace.”
At least he’s consistent with a statement last night from the White House, which argued that the pages were “illegally published.” Consistent, but wrong: As this blog has pointed out many times, First Amendment protections allow news organizations to publish material from sources that may have illegally procured it, so long as the journalists aren’t involved in that illegal procurement. The two-pronged test: Is the material true? Is it newsworthy?
That the president finds the leaking a “disgrace” demonstrates just how minimally prepared he is to serve in his current post. The real disgrace is that Trump has stonewalled repeated demands that he comply with a grand tradition of presidential candidates to disclose their returns. He failed to do so, thereby boosting the newsworthiness of even incomplete, 12-year-old tax returns. So yes, we are supposed to have this information.