The White House is firing back at MSNBC for exposing the “leaked” two pages of President Donald Trump’s tax returns from 2005. But there is nothing particularly damning in the returns that Rachel Maddow shared with the world. Trump got some tax breaks as expected — as he boasted about — but he paid taxes, with an effective tax rate of 25%. Indeed the White House may be grousing insincerely. With many Democrats hoping Trump’s returns would show he paid nothing in taxes (and this release dashing that hope), Trump should feel pretty good. As Trump’s backers have been swift to point out, his rate was reportedly higher than Bernie Sanders’ rate.
Where did the two pages of Trump’s returns come from? After a concentrated effort to get a look at Trump’s taxes throughout the campaign came to nothing, is it suspicious that these two random pages from 12 years ago — pages that actually make Donald Trump look pretty good — were leaked? And that the left-leaning MSNBC helped publicize them? Isn’t that another coup for Trump? Because if this release quiets the conversation about Trump’s taxes, then other information which might be gleaned from a fuller look at Trump’s tax returns — such as the extent of his business dealings with Russia and other entities — will move down the priority list. There may be a “bombshell” in Trump’s taxes, as Mitt Romney has said, but this isn’t it. Thing is: does this stop people from looking? Indeed, the way it has played out, it would have been a smart move by Trump’s team itself to release these two pages of returns. Did they? Reporter David Cay Johnston, who was given the tax forms, even said they may have come from Trump.