Why Rachel Maddow Deserved Better Than The Backlash Over Trump's Tax Returns
Rachel Maddow released a partial copy of President Donald Trump's 2005 tax return on her show on Tuesday evening, offering the public their second-ever glimpse into the state of the president's finances. Unfortunately, some social media users are harshly critiquing Maddow for releasing Trump's tax return, claiming that the release was a "non-story" since the document showed that the president did indeed pay taxes. However, I'd argue that this accusation is off-base for several reasons and that Maddow sharing the tax return is actually quite the opposite of a "non-story."
While Trump's 2005 tax return did show that he paid federal taxes (to be precise, $38 million while making an income of over $150 million), establishing that the president paid taxes is likely far from all that Maddow set out to achieve when she unveiled the return. Indeed, showing the public that Trump paid his taxes one year is probably, in my opinion, the least valuable piece of information that Maddow's segment revealed. The fact that Trump paid taxes is baseline information; what Maddow further revealed by releasing his 2005 return is that there still exist a lot of unanswered questions around Trump, his taxes, and his business and financial relationships. Maddow deserves the utmost credit for bringing this notion to light and for reigniting public interest in the status of Trump's tax returns and his financial entanglements.
More specifically, Maddow's release of Trump's 2005 tax return and the White House's preemptive response to its release highlight exactly why Maddow's reveal was so important. The White House released a statement ahead of Maddow's show that merely revealed a few of Trump's income and tax figures for the year 2005, information which would subsequently be divulged on the show. What the administration, yet again, refused to do, is voluntarily release a full copy of the 2005 return or release returns from any other year.
The White House's preemptive statement clearly indicates that it is able to release tax information and are not being hampered by an IRS audit as it has alleged. Thus, the White House is seemingly actively choosing to withhold Trump's returns. Several media outlets, including Vox, have found this curious, saying, "Through all this, Trump still isn’t releasing his returns. And here’s what that means: Whatever is in his returns is not great."
Overall, Maddow's story served to illustrate not necessarily what was in Trump's tax return, but what was not there — both in his 2005 return and in the overall financial information the American public has about its president. As Maddow kept reminding viewers on her show, the two-page 2005 tax return constituted just a small snippet of the full return, just as the return itself is also a very small glimpse into Trump's overall financial situation. The fact that Trump may have released the partial 2005 return himself as a "distraction," coupled with the scary notion that we still do not have a comprehensive picture of from whom the president receives money, to whom he has paid interest, or with whom he has engaged in business partnerships is Maddow's story. In releasing the 2005 return, she has helped ensure that the pressure on Trump to adhere to presidential precedent and fully disclose his tax returns, as well as to fully divest from his business empire, does not fall by the wayside.
The fact that some are criticizing Maddow's release of Trump's 2005 tax return as a "non-story" means that some of the public has now seemingly normalized a president's refusal to fully disclose his tax returns and confirm that he has no financial or business relationships that could threaten his presidential objectivity and/or the security of the United States.
Characterizing this type of behavior from the president of the United States as "normal" is absolutely not OK and perfectly illustrates why Maddow's story was so important — Trump needs to continue to be held accountable for his actions and the public should not stand for a lack of transparency about his tax returns — or anything else, for that matter. Maddow deserves immense credit for reminding Americans of this notion.