At 7:36 p.m. this evening, less than 90 minutes before her show, Rachel Maddow dropped a bombshell on Twitter. “We’ve got Trump tax returns. (Seriously)” she tweeted.
On his show, which leads in to Maddow’s Chris Hayes said, “I know two things about what she has in store — one, I know David Cay Johnston is going to join her to break news too. I know it has something to do with President Donald Trump’s taxes. We’ll find out the rest together when we tune in for Rachel at 9:00 p.m.”
A few minutes after Hayes’ tease, Maddow tweeted more details:
What we've got is from 2005… the President's 1040 form… details to come tonight 9PM ET, MSNBC.
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) March 15, 2017
Since Pres. Trump’s inauguration, Maddow has seen some of her best ratings in years. In February she saw her biggest audience among younger viewers since Dec. 2012. And last week, her show got a rare win among the cable news networks for the full week in the A25-54 demo. The last time that happened was in October, the week after the revelation of the Access Hollywood tape.
Around 8:40 p.m., the White House pre-sponded to the Maddow segment, with details of Trump’s 2005 return:
— Dustin Volz (@dnvolz) March 15, 2017
8:55 p.m.: Over on CNN, Anderson Cooper is covering the White House statement ahead of the segment on a rival network. “There’s a report out there that his 2005 tax return was obtained and that’s where that information is coming from.”
9 p.m. “It’s been a little bit of a hullabaloo around here,” Maddow said to Hayes as she began her show.
9:01 p.m.: “We got this Trump tax return through David Cay Johnston,” said Maddow explaining the background. “David Cay Johnston is a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist, he’s a specialist on tax issues and financial reporting. In just a second we are going to show you exactly what it is we’ve got. But let me tell you first that part of what’s very important about the document [is that] it has been handed to a reporter and that’s an important part of this story. That may be the most important part of this story,” said Maddow.
9:10 p.m.: As Maddow continues with the background, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson is talking about the Maddow report.
9:15 p.m.: Maddow tying the tax returns to Russia. “The worry that this president may be financially beholden to an individual, to an institution, to a country. We won’t know if he tries to use the resources and power of our country to pay off that entity to whom he is beholden. We can’t know any of that without getting his tax returns. That’s why presidents release their tax returns. That’s why there will continue to be unrelenting pressure to find Donald Trump’s tax returns.”
9:18 p.m.: Maddow holds up the 2005 return, then goes to a commercial break.
9:23 p.m.: Back from break, Maddow reads the details of the 2005 tax return: “He paid $38 million — looks like $38 million in taxes. He took a big write down of $103 million. If you add up the lines for income he made more than $150 million in that year, mazel tov,” said Maddow.
9:24 p.m.: She also read the response from the White House, which the show sought earlier tonight. “The first amendment gives us the right to publish this return, it’s not illegal,” she added.
9:27 p.m.: David Cay Johnston says he was sent the tax return, adding, “it’s entirely possible Donald sent this to me. Donald Trump has, over the years, leaked things. The very sleazy girl-on-girl pictures of the first lady in the New York Post may have come from Donald. The front pages of the state tax returns we had that were sent to The New York Times and the New York Daily News last fall may have come from Donald. Donald has a long history of leaking material about himself when he thinks it’s in his interests.”
9:40 p.m.: Discussion continues with Johnston and Chris Hayes. Maddow teases Michael Beschloss to talk about the historic nature of this. ”
9:48 p.m.: “It makes you wonder whether it’s worth it to him to have not released his tax returns given the kind of mystery we’re seeing culminate tonight and a lot of interest in these tax returns,” said Beschloss.
9:52 p.m.: Johnston said his website, DCReport.org “has crashed.” “You can also see this document at maddowblog.com,” Maddow said, before looking off camera, asking: “We crashed our own website too? We crashed out own website too. Come back. Set a bookmark.”
9:57 p.m.: NBC News White House correspondent Hallie Jackson phoned in.
9:59 p.m.: “This was a little bit of a crazy night,” said Maddow signing off. “You know how much the president made and paid in that one year. We only have two pages. There is still a long list of questions that could be answered by the president.”
And over on Fox News at 10 p.m. Sean Hannity takes on the report, lumping in NBC. “NBC News in particular is on a political jihad against Trump and his administration. We have hit a new low in terms of privacy as we know it here in our country.”
Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted:
Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, "went to his mailbox" and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2017