So, it wasn’t really fake news.
It was real news, but there was nothing in it.
That didn’t stop Rachel Maddow of MSNBC from playing up her big reveal of two pages from Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns like she had just discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Buildup Was Immense. Yesterday afternoon, just a few hours before her show came on the air, MSNBC’s Maddow tweeted this:
It turns out that she had only a couple of pages from Trump’s 2005 tax returns – amazingly, the only tax returns to which we know anybody else has access, since there were multiple media reports last year with vague descriptions of the tax returns. Twitter immediately went insane with speculation – would it reveal that Trump hadn’t paid taxes? Would we find out that Trump is actually Dmitri Trumpkin, a Russian spy? Maddow played into all of that with one of her patented, long-winded wind-ups at the beginning of the show … and then she delivered bupkis.
2. Trump Is Very, Very Rich. Trump cleared $150 million in 2005. That means he makes a lot of money. Some journalists are suggesting that Trump isn’t a billionaire based on this return, but that’s nonsense – wealth is earned over time, and assets are not income. Your wealth is probably your home, your car, and your nest egg. It isn’t what you earned last year. Let’s just put it this way: Trump earned more in 2005 than the average American household would earn in approximately 2,700 years.
3. Trump Pays Lots And Lots Of Taxes. Trump paid $38 million in taxes. The Left is suggesting that this isn’t enough, or that Trump wants to dump the alternative minimum tax because that’s where the IRS really stung Trump. But this absolutely destroys the Left’s narrative that because Trump took a $916 million loss in 1995, he paid no taxes until he ran for president – a narrative pressed by major Democrats including Hillary Clinton. Trump’s tax burden, as noted by John Nolte, was higher than Barack Obama’s in 2015, Bernie Sanders’ in 2014, or Comcast (which owns NBC) from 2008 to 2012.
4. Trump Responded With Justifiable Umbrage. Trump scooped Maddow by dumping the details of his tax returns on the White House website just before her show:
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 being said, Mr. Trump paid $38 million dollars even after taking into account large scale depreciation for construction, on an income of more than $150 million dollars, as well as paying 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. Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns. The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans.
It’s not illegal for Maddow to run the documents that have been leaked, unless NBC was responsible for stealing them or the person who gave the tax returns to NBC stole them. The journalist who handed them over to NBC claims they arrived in his mailbox anonymously. Trump is pushing back on that:
5. Trump Still Won’t Release The Rest of His Tax Returns. Trump remains the only major presidential candidate in modern history not to release tax returns from the years before he ran. He said he would, and he hasn’t. That’s a plain fact. That still leaves open questions about why he won’t turn over that information. Then again, President Obama refused to hand over his birth certificate for years before finally doing so under pressure from Trump, who claimed that Obama was born in Kenya. Obama didn’t turn over the birth certificate so that he could troll the right; it’s possible that Trump’s doing the same thing now.
In any case, Maddow’s big scoop was a big scoop of dog turd. It made Geraldo Rivera’s opening of Al Capone’s empty vault look like underhyped and overdelivered journalistic masterwork. And the media continue to search for a silver bullet that appears not to be coming anytime soon to derail the Trump presidency.