On Tuesday evening, Rachel Maddow revealed a pages from Donald Trump's 2005 tax return on her show. While many are focusing on the content of the return, others have also pointed out that there is a "client copy" stamp on Trump's tax return, meaning that Trump himself or someone close to him could have leaked the tax document. However, the White House has not acknowledged this claim and has characterized the return as "stolen," adding that it's illegal to publish tax returns without a person's consent.
Maddow received Trump's 2005 tax return from Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter and Donald Trump biographer, David Cay Johnston, who reportedly received the document anonymously in his mailbox. Johnston presented the return on Maddow's show on Tuesday. The document reveals that Trump and his wife, Melania, paid around $38 million in federal taxes in 2005 and made about $150 million in income.
Notably, the second page of Trump's tax return is stamped with the words "client copy," meaning that the return could have belonged to Trump and was not acquired via the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Wrap asked a New York-based CPA, Michael Mankiewicz, about the significance of a client copy stamp on a tax return. Mankiewicz indicated that he believed the client copy stamp on Trump's return is exactly what it seems like.
This is Donald’s copy. Any time there is a client copy, that goes to client, it’s for them to keep. ... I’d say 99 of a hundred times that is true. If it says "client copy" it’s the client’s copy.
It’s very likely that the person or person who leaked it is either Trump himself or someone close to him. ... Otherwise who would have the client copy?
Cay Johnston, the journalist who allegedly received Trump's tax returns and who has covered Trump for many years, seems to agree that Trump leaking the returns himself is certainly a possibility. On Maddow's show, Johnston asserted, "It's entirely possible that Donald Trump sent this to me. Donald Trump has, over the years, leaked all sorts of things." Johnston also added that Trump has a "long history of leaking material about himself when he thinks it's in his interests."
For its part, the White House has certainly not supported the notion that Trump leaked the returns himself. Instead, the released statement strongly condemned the leak of the tax return and even suggested the tax returns had been stolen, saying, “Despite this [Trump's] substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns."
While one cannot confirm whether Trump leaked his own tax return, it is certainly interesting to speculate as to why it could be seen to be in his interest. The Guardian suggests that if Trump did indeed leak his own returns, he could have done so to distract the public and media from the current controversies in his administration, including the proposed repeal of Obamacare and unfounded wiretapping allegations against President Obama. The Guardian further suggests that the 2005 return reflects a very strong income year for Trump and a year in which he paid a substantial amount of federal taxes, meaning that Trump could have leaked the document to place himself in a favorable light and to diminish demands for release of all of his tax returns.
Of course, reflecting on why it could have been in Trump's interest to release his own tax return is all speculation; while the presence of a client copy stamp on the return is certainly intriguing, it does not confirm anything at this point. It will be interesting to see whether the administration addresses the issue of the stamp at all or if they perceive discussion around the return as completely closed.