MSNBC political talk show host Joe Scarborough has accused President Donald Trump of leaking his own 2005 tax returns to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston. Scarborough asserts the president released two pages of his own returns to dispel concerns that he does not pay taxes and to distract from politically embarrassing news stories.
On March 15, Scarborough took to social media to allege that Trump had carefully chosen one of his tax returns to release to the media. The two pages of the return indicated that Trump paid $38 million in taxes on an income of $150 million in 2005, according to The Hill.
"This one tax return is not bad for him because he cherry picked one return from over a decade ago and had it leaked to the press," Scarborough tweeted.
The political talk show host added that he believed the president's motive for allegedly leaking his own 2005 return was to provide positive press for him amid congressional investigations into his campaign's ties with the Russian government and the controversy surrounding the GOP replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act.
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"The Trump camp released one positive tax return to distract from Russia hearings and the Trumpcare meltdown," Scarborough tweeted out. "That's painfully obvious."
On March 14, Johnston presented the two pages of Trump's 2005 tax return on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" news program after receiving them from an anonymous source in his mailbox.
On March 15, Johnston stated he believed it was plausible that Trump had leaked the tax returns himself.
"Donald has a long history of leaking things about himself and doing it indirectly and directly," Johnston told CNN. "So it's a possibility."
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The president has blasted reporting on the tax returns in the first place.
"Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, 'went to his mailbox' and found my tax returns?" Trump tweeted. "[NBC News] FAKE NEWS!"
Several Democratic strategists have criticized the media attention given to the two pages of Trump's 2005 tax return, asserting that it is a distraction from the American Health Care Act, the current proposal to replace the ACA.
"Message: tax cuts for the rich paid for by taking health care away from 24 [million] people > tax returns," tweeted out Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser to former President Barack Obama.
Brian Fallon, who had worked as the national press secretary for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign, agreed that Trump's tax returns are not a viable criticism.
"[Democrats] should return focus to Trumpcare tomorrow & the millions it will leave uninsured, not get distracted two pages from '05 tax return," Fallon tweeted.
Scarborough's accusation that Trump had leaked his own tax returns requires evidence to substantiate. Meanwhile, both the AHCA and congressional investigations into Russia's role in the presidential election continue to come under scrutiny.
On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office released an estimate that if the AHCA is signed into law, 24 million more Americans will not have health insurance by 2026 than if the ACA is kept in place. The CBO report has left several Republican lawmakers concerned about the bill's future, Business Insider reports.
"It's awful," said Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. "It has to be a concern. President Trump said he wanted as many people covered as under Obamacare."
Meanwhile, FBI Director James Comey has agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee about his agency's investigation into the Russian government's alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. That hearing has been slated for March 20, Politico reports.