Trump Calls Report on Leaked Tax Returns "Illegal" and "a Disgrace"
"They’re not supposed to have it, and it's not supposed to be leaked."
After first weighing in on Twitter early Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump has issued a more formal response to his tax information being leaked the night prior on MSNBC.
In a interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson that will air in full Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET, Trump called the reporting of his 2005 tax forms "illegal" and "a disgrace."
"I have no idea where they got it, but it’s illegal and they’re not supposed to have it, and it's not supposed to be leaked," Trump says in a clip shared Wednesday afternoon ahead of the interview. "It’s certainly not an embarrassing tax return at all, but it’s an illegal thing. They’ve been doing it, they’ve done it before and I think it’s a disgrace."
Trump's comments follow a similarly scathing statement from the White House. Pushing back pre-emptively, the White House also called the reveal — which aired on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show on Tuesday night — illegal and released key details confirming the information ahead of the on-air story.
"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 Tuesday night in a statement.
But Maddow, who reported on two pages of Trump's 2005 tax forms, argued that MSNBC was exercising its First Amendment right to publish the information. The records were obtained by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who said he received the two-page document unsolicited in the mail, without a return address.
Trump broke a decades-long tradition when he refused to release his tax returns during his presidential campaign. Based on the documents, Trump paid $36.5 million in taxes on $153 million in income, for an effective tax rate of around 24 percent. That percentage is higher than what the average American pays each year, but below the 27.4 percent that taxpayers earning $1 million a year pay on average, according to data from the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
The president first responded to the report early Wednesday morning on Twitter by calling NBC News, the parent organization to Maddow's show on MSNBC, "fake news." He added, "Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, 'went to his mailbox' and found my tax returns?"
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
Also during Trump's interview on Wednesday, Carlson asked why the president tweeted an accusation that former President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of his phones. Trump, according to Fox News, said wiretap "covers a lot of different things." Adding, "I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday said he had not given President Trump any reason to believe he was wiretapped by Obama. Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, also said he had seen no information to support his claim, adding that Trump's comments should not be taken at face value.
"Are you going to take the tweets literally?" he said. "If so, clearly the president was wrong."