It took a good 23 minutes, but MSNBC's Rachel Maddow eventually got to the point of her Tuesday night telecast and relayed the news she'd signaled ahead of her show.
Earlier that afternoon, Maddow took to Twitter with word of a big story in the works:
BREAKING: We've got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC.
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) March 14, 2017
The setup worked, and by the start of "The Rachel Maddow Show" at 9 p.m. EST, it was clear that other mainstream outlets were hopping to—for instance, CNN's news chyron also advertised forthcoming details on the president's 2005 tax return.
More than a third of the way into the hour, however, Maddow was still riffing on, among other subjects, the political significance of the information she had not yet revealed. Some of her peers in the press began to express consternation:
buriedest lede ever
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) March 15, 2017
Maddow is going to show us the tax return at 9:57, isn't she?
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 15, 2017
— Truthdig (@Truthdig) March 15, 2017
Well before that point, news of Maddow's impending report had made its way to the White House, prompting the president's camp to step on the story by releasing the tax forms:
The White House preemptively responded, btw: https://t.co/5LztglnuTb
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) March 15, 2017
The Daily Beast also jumped on the forms in a bid to pre-empt their on-air disclosure on MSNBC:
You don't need to watch Maddow's long-winded windup. We've got the details on Trump’s 2005 tax returns here: https://t.co/EQUI7kYtEt
— Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) March 15, 2017
And that was how the news sausage got made, but whether there was any actual meat to be found was another matter.
Here's what The New York Times made of the data:
President Trump wrote off $100 million in business losses to reduce his federal taxes in 2005, according to forms made public on Tuesday night in a rare glimpse at documents that he has refused to disclose since becoming a candidate for the nation’s highest office.
The forms showed that Mr. Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes on reported income of $150 million, an effective tax rate of 25 percent, according to Rachel Maddow, who aired them on her MSNBC show. By claiming losses from previous years, Mr. Trump was able to save tens of millions of dollars in taxes that he otherwise might have owed.
The White House responded without even waiting for the show to air, issuing a statement that seemed to confirm the authenticity of the forms even as it defended Mr. Trump and assailed the network for publicizing them. “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 statement said.
The White House added: “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.” In addition to the federal income taxes, the statement said, he paid “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.”
The tax forms were sent to David Cay Johnston, a former New York Times reporter who covered the Internal Revenue Service for years and has written a book on Mr. Trump. Appearing with Ms. Maddow, he said he had received the forms “over the transom” and did not know who had sent them. He suggested that they might even have been sent by Mr. Trump himself.
Take a look at the two-page leak here, and watch the substantive portion of Maddow's show below (MSNBC via YouTube):
--Posted by Kasia Anderson