Richard Painter, ethics lawyer for George W. Bush from 05-07 and current vice chairman of CREW, was having none of it when Rachel Maddow revealed Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return Tuesday night.
It is marked “client copy”. It is not the copy filed with the IRS. Did he leak it himself? Lets see 2006-2016https://t.co/KQcPBsxrLd
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) March 15, 2017
You can see for yourself in this closeup:
The problem is that the return revealed by Rachel Maddow were mailed to investigative journalist David Cay Johnston and they were marked “client copy.” They were not to the copy mailed to the IRS.
Johnston admitted to CNN this morning that he believes it is possible Trump himself sent the return to him:
Journalist who obtained President Trump’s 2005 tax return says it is possible the President sent it to him https://t.co/4rh8YhhI4m
— CNN (@CNN) March 15, 2017
“Donald has a long history of leaking things about himself and doing it directly or indirectly, so it’s a possibility.”
Johnston believed Trump would have reacted with less anger if he had leaked it himself, but CNN’s Gloria Borger asked, “Is this a conspiracy too far to think that this was something he released himself?”
The “client copy” stamp also had NBC News’ Brad Jaffy giving a speculative “Hmm…”
Did Trump do it? One the one hand, it appears to hurt him. On the other, Trump is a master manipulator of the media. As well as serving as a distraction, the release would be a way for Donald Trump to head off further speculation about his tax returns.
Having paid 0 income taxes in 1996 and drawing a lot of heat for it, he can now show he did pay income taxes (admittedly, far too little) in 2005, putting an end to speculation that his returns would prove he hasn’t been paying any income taxes.
The problem is that while the released return doesn’t make Trump look good by any means, it fails to provide a smoking gun because so much is missing from it. As CBS News explained,
“CBS MoneyWatch had a heyday, even while noting they needed much more information from elsewhere in the 2005 tax filing to really understand his tax liability completely.”
We all saw Trump’s hysterical response. The leaked return could be the tip of the iceberg, as some are saying.
However, New York Daily News writer and Young Turks commentator Shaun King points out that,
I absolutely believe Trump released this tax return himself. Anything to distract people from the countless other scandals he's mired in.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) March 15, 2017
The moment, if it was indeed calculated, also gave Trump the opportunity to freak out, to feign outrage again at the “dishonest” media for “illegally” doing what it had a right to do. More political theater from the ‘president.’
We may or may not ever find out the truth. Maddow hinted at further tax returns. All this speculation may fall to the wayside if she is able to do as she says and produce another, far more incriminating, tax return from 2006 to 2016.