David Cay Johnston Has Covered Trump In-Depth

by Katherine Speller
Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Internet collectively lost its mind Tuesday night at the announcement that MSNBC's Rachel Maddow had President Donald Trump's tax returns and would provide more details on her show. Soon after, Maddow teased that her program had gained access to the president's 1040 tax return from 2005 and that David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author of The Making of Donald Trump, would appear to break the story and unpack the new information.

Johnston is no stranger to the Trump-beat as he (literally) wrote the book on President Trump back in August 2016, allegedly in just 27 days, according the New York Times. However, he also had been covering Trump, who he called "the PT Barnum of our age," since the 1980s, during his time working as a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He says that over the years, he's developed a keen understanding of our 45th president.

Drawing on his long history with the president, Johnston was the first to say (via Maddow's program) that it's possible that Trump (or someone in his circle) leaked the returns straight to his mailbox.

“He is masterful at understanding the conventions of journalism,” Johnston told the Times back in August 2016. “Trump is remarkably agile at doing as he chooses and getting away with it."

In addition to his career as an award-winning journalist, Johnston is lauded as a tax law wizard. He was the Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Syracuse University College of Law from 2009 to 2014 and has been a columnist analyzing issues of taxes, economics, accounting and more at several national publications. His 2001 Pulitzer prize was based on his financial reporting in the New York Times, publishing several stories that dealt specifically with loopholes in the tax code and people who took advantage of them.

Additionally, Johnston founded, an online journal dedicated to following actions of the federal government. It's there that (despite the website crashing due to all the attention from Maddow's program) he published an analysis of the pages from Donald Trump's 2005 1040 form.

As an expert in two areas that Trump loathes—taxes and high-quality journalism— Johnston has positioned himself as an individual who is particularly capable of keeping up with the POTUS and shedding light on issues of his tax history. He also, almost gleefully, closed that 2016 interview about his book by promising that he was “going to follow [Trump] for the rest of his life.”