Trump supporters cheer leak of 2005 tax bill

Andrew BEATTY
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President Donald Trump reported an income of $150 million 12 years ago, and paid an overall tax rate of around 25 percent, according to a leaked summary of part of his tax return

Donald Trump's supporters Wednesday cheered the release of a partial tax return for 2005 showing he paid a hefty sum that year, in a rare peek into the president's jealously guarded finances.

The Republican real estate magnate has refused to release his full tax returns since he began his quest for the presidency, shattering decades of American tradition.

Trump has long claimed he cannot release his taxes because he is under audit, but his detractors accuse him of having something to hide: whether a failure to pay taxes or questionable sources of income.

The White House acknowledged late Tuesday that Trump paid $38 million in taxes in 2005, just before David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, and MSNBC revealed a summary of part of his tax report.

Trump reported income of $150 million 12 years ago, and paid an overall tax rate of around 25 percent, according to the two-page document.

It also shows he wrote off more than $100 million in business losses to reduce his tax burden. The White House described it as a "large-scale depreciation for construction."

But the partial return does not reveal the source of Trump's income, a key question fueling demands for him to disclose his tax history.

The full tax document could notably shed light on whether he has controversial business ties -- including with Russia, as some Trump critics suspect.

- 'ThankYouMaddow' -

Appearing with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, Johnston said he did not know the source of the leaked return, which he said was placed in his mailbox.

Johnston suggested a member of Trump's entourage -- possibly even, he speculated, the president himself -- anonymously delivered the documents to him.

"Let me point out it's entirely possible Donald sent this to me," he said. "Donald has a long history of leaking material about himself when he thinks it's in his interests."

On Wednesday, Trump attacked the reporter on Twitter, questioning his account.

"Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, 'went to his mailbox' and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!"

The two-page snapshot was broadly favorable to the White House and appeared to back up Trump's claim that he paid his fair share of taxes, and no more.

Within hours, #ThankYouMaddow became a rallying cry for Trump supporters on Twitter -- delighted that the left-leaning MSNBC journalist had, as they saw it, cut short speculation that Trump avoided paying taxes.

A month before the election, The New York Times published three pages of Trump's leaked 1995 tax returns. They showed a $916 million deduction that could have resulted in Trump legally paying no taxes for up to 18 years.

"I don't know much, but if I recall correctly $38,000,000 is a lot more than $0... right???" tweeted Donald Trump Jr, claiming his father was vindicated by the leaks.

According to Johnston, the documents show Trump and his wife Melania paying $5.3 million in regular federal income tax -- a rate of less than four percent.

"However, the Trumps paid an additional $31 million in the so-called 'alternative minimum tax,' or AMT," Johnston wrote in a post on the Daily Beast website.

The AMT was originally designed to prevent rich taxpayers from using excessive loopholes, and Trump has previously called for its elimination.

- 'Audit excuse' -

By way of comparison, Hillary and Bill Clinton, who are millionaires and have published all their tax returns since 1977, paid 30.8 percent in federal tax in 2005.

Mitt Romney, a fellow millionaire and a Republican presidential candidate in 2012, paid an effective 14.1 percent in 2011.

While running for president Trump said he would release his taxes if elected, but once in office he backpedaled, and now claims US voters have no interest in his taxes.

A recent Langer Research poll, however, showed that almost three-quarters of Americans believe Trump should release his tax returns.

In a statement, the Democratic National Committee slammed Trump's "audit excuse" as a "sham."

"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," said Zac Petkanas, a senior adviser to the DNC, offering no evidence.

- On the attack -

The White House bashed media outlets for publishing the partial return, even as it confirmed its authenticity and key figures.

"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," an administration official said.

Trump paid "no more tax than legally required," said the official, who refused to be identified.

In addition to $38 million in income tax, the official said Trump also paid "tens of millions of dollars in other taxes such as sales and excise taxes and employment taxes, and this illegally published return proves just that."