President Donald Trump's tax returns include plenty — but many critics argue that they leave out even more. What was shown on MSNBC'sThe Rachel Maddow Show was just two pages of a 1040 form. You've probably become familiar with these forms if you've ever done your own taxes; it's a summary of the rest of your filing, the big numbers but none of the details. Trump's 2005 returns may seem boring even, but read between the lines. That's what Maddow put forward on her show Tuesday night —that there are more questions not answered than those put to rest.
The two pages of Trump's 2005 1040 appeared in investigative reporter David Cay Johnson's mailbox — unsolicited, according to him. He went on Maddow to talk about them and also posted an exclusive piece on DCReport.org. Johnson and Maddow looked at aspect of the available information in the two pages, like the tax rate Trump paid, the Alternative Minimum Tax, and more. But the real story is still a mystery, if you follow Maddow's and Johnson's line of thinking.
"A full tax return for Donald Trump would be a lot longer than the two pages that we have here. There are all kinds of schedules and notes and attachments that could be involved, all containing information about the president and his money," Maddow said on her program. "Why will he not release his taxes, his full taxes, the way other presidents have done? Why not let the public see the information for themselves?"
Johnson asked the same questions in his piece for the DCReport. "There is still far more that it doesn’t say. It does not name the sources of his vast income, whether rich golfers playing on his various courses or Russian oligarchs visiting his various hotels." That's something the American people should know — and yet Trump has refused to provide the information.
What's especially interesting is if Trump leaked his own tax returns. That's what Johnson suggested could be the case in his interview with Maddow — and that's not without evidence; you can see, the second page has "client copy" stamped on it. The real question is if this leak was in Trump's interest. Johnson hinted to Maddow that it might be.
However, Maddow already seemed wise to that prospect, as Louise Mensch, a conservative blogger noted. Consider the below tweet:
Maddow isn't going to make the mistake of focusing solely on the bits of the return that we can see, but rather the whole thing. That's what the news media needs to do, as well. Nothing on those two first pages are damning.
Based on the White House's response, it seems the Trump administrations thinks it can spin these tax returns in a way that makes the president look good. The official statement stressed, "Before being elected President, Mr. Trump was one of the most successful businessmen in the world with a responsibility to his company, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required."
That shouldn't be the point of the story. What we learn from these two pages is not necessarily damning. What's missing could be.
"This is all we've got," Maddow told the audience Tuesday night. "This tells us something, but he still has disclosed, pertinently willingly disclosed, nothing compared to all other modern presidents."
Johnson added, "This describes the types of income, but not the sources. That's what we need to know, who is the president getting money from?"
As you read about Trump's tax returns, don't forget to keep that in mind and read between the lines.