The build up to a very Washington drama was breathless — a popular TV cable host tweeting that the network could finally reveal President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
You might remember President Trump became the only presidential candidate in decades not to release his tax returns.
Anticipation in this most political of cities built — text messages pinged around and Twitter pleaded with left-leaning MSNBC to reveal some scraps.
The host began her broadcast with a 20 minute editorial — then an ad break — before getting to the hard news.
They revealed two pages of President Trump’s tax returns from 2005 which showed Mr Trump paid about $38 million in taxes on an income of $150 million.
The reporters said much more information was needed about the source of Mr Trump’s income raising the spectre of revenue gained from Russian oligarchs.
For viewers hoping that’s what they were going to get from MSNBC the reality didn’t match the hype but still it was a significant story to break.
The White House moved quickly
The drama also showed that in this White House defence is the best form of attack.
Before the story had aired a statement was circulated, more or less confirming the numbers, but casting them in a very different light.
It painted a picture of a globally successful businessman who paid the tax he was required to under the law.
It also accused the network of acting illegally and said it showed MSNBC’s desperation for ratings that it would hype two pages of a 12-year-old tax return.
The reporter involved defended his report — saying it came through the mail and adding to the vaudeville by suggesting Mr Trump could’ve leaked the return.
“Came in the mail over the transom. And there is absolutely nothing improper about journalists, if you haven’t solicited something, getting it over the transom. And by the way, let me point out it’s entirely possible that Donald sent this to me. Donald Trump has, over the years, leaked all sorts of things,” said David Cay Johnston.
While the idea of the President leaking the documents anonymously appears highly unlikely, this report may have one silver lining for Mr Trump.
A previous leak to the New York Times during the election had led to speculation the President had used deductions to avoid paying taxes for 20 years from about 1995.
Donald Trump Jr tweeted his thanks to the network for what he said was proving to a Trump-hating audience that the President paid tax.
A generous rebate from those he’s labelled an enemy — and another day of twists in Trump’s White House.
Source: ABC News