Journalist Who Received Trump Taxes Walks Back Theory They Could Have Been Leaked by Trump
"The venom and the anger and the falsehoods in the White House statement suggests that, no, he’s probably not the source," journalist David Cay Johnston said one day after his MSNBC reveal.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston joined MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Tuesday night to discuss the release of two previously unreleased tax forms belonging to President Donald Trump.
Cay Johnston, a columnist for the Daily Beast and founder of DCReport.org, spoke about how he came by the much-discussed Trump tax forms. "[They] came in the mail over the transom,” Johnston explained. The two-page document was delivered anonymously and without a return address.
He then wasted no time in naming a possible source for the leak: “Let me point out it’s entirely possible that Donald [Trump] sent this to me,” Johnston told Maddow. “Trump has, over the years, leaked all sorts of things.”
“Donald has a long history of leaking material about himself when he thinks it’s in his interest,” Johnston added, referencing the release of Trump's tax information from the 1990s last October by The New York Times.
“It’s a possibility,” Johnston reiterated. “Donald creates his own reality and he says things that aren’t true. He says things and then denies he said them. He lives in this world that isn’t where you and I live, a world of verifiable facts. So yes, I do think you have to include that in the list of possibilities for where this came from.”
Johnston's DCReport website crashed due to the massive amount of traffic driven there shortly after his announcement that he would be on Maddow's show. The website has since been fixed.
Ahead of the TV reveal, the White House pushed back pre-emptively Tuesday night, saying that publishing those returns would be illegal.
"You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago," the White House said in a statement.
The unauthorized release or publishing of federal tax returns is a criminal offense, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in jail. But Maddow argued that MSNBC was exercising its First Amendment right to publish information in the public interest.
Early Wednesday morning, Trump himself also took to Twitter. Despite the White House's acknowledgement of the tax returns, the president called NBC News, the parent organization to MSNBC, "fake news."
"Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, "went to his mailbox" and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!" Trump tweeted.
When Cay Johnston appeared on Wednesday's Good Morning America to further discuss the reveal, the journalist took back his theory that Trump had leaked the documents after seeing the "venom" and "anger" in the White House response.
“The venom and the anger and the falsehoods in the White House statement suggests that, no, he’s probably not the source,” Cay Johnston said on the ABC News morning show. “That tells me that this is somebody who either worked at the accounting firm or had connections to it or this copy was turned over to someone in a regulatory proceeding, in litigation, in a financial statement. And why not the whole return?”
Cay Johnston also pointed out that the document doesn't show who Trump has done business with.
"It doesn't tell us who Trump is beholden to," he said. "We don't know who he's getting his revenue from. We don't know who his partners are or who he's done business with in foreign countries, and that could have major national security implications."
Earlier, Cay Johnston had responded to Trump's tweet by saying, "Gee, Donald, your White House confirmed my story. POTUS fake Tweet. Sad!"
Gee, Donald, your White House confirmed my story. POTUS fake Tweet. Sad! https://t.co/ibK2ApKI9E— David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ) March 15, 2017
In a series of tweets that began Tuesday night, the journalist said he and his family were actually "harassed" by Trump fans after the on-air reveal. "Let's have open debate, not threats," he wrote. Adding, "Calls to family are out of bounds, a disturbing sign of how Trump damages civil debate."
Trump fans call & harass my wife & 1 of my children after I break story White House confirmed. Sad! Let's have open debate, not threats.— David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ) March 15, 2017
To be clear, folks, I don't intimidate. But calls to family are out of bounds, a disturbing sign of how Trump damages civil debate.— David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ) March 15, 2017
March 15, 10 a.m. ET: Updated with Tuesday night and Wednesday morning tweets.
1:45 p.m.: Updated with Cay Johnston's GMA appearance.