When Rachel Maddow walked onto Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” stage Wednesday night, the MSNBC host looked comfortable in a black blazer and jeans. She was also wearing some new sneakers.
“They are my ‘You Got the President’s Tax Return’ sneakers,” Maddow said.
It was a coveted scoop, obtaining documents that President Donald Trump had yet to release himself. But, Maddow admitted that the 2005 return wasn’t a “huge, damning bombshell.”
Instead, the return is important because it is simply “the first piece in the jigsaw," she explained.
“I [still] want to know who sent them. I have no idea,” Maddow said. “I want to know if there’s more where that came from. And I want to know why the president won’t release more of them.”
America may not know why Trump won’t show his returns himself, but it’s clear he’s not ashamed of the one Maddow obtained.
“It’s certainly not an embarrassing tax return,” he said on Fox News Wednesday night.
But Maddow countered, “If you’re so psyched about [the 2005 return,] give us some more.”
Though exclusive, the document Maddow revealed on her Tuesday night broadcast, sent to David Cay Johnston of DCReport.org in the mail, only shows that Trump made more than $150 million in 2005 and paid about $38 million in federal taxes, a roughly 25 percent tax rate.
It contradicts speculation from some of his opponents during the campaign that Trump doesn’t pay federal taxes, thanks to a write-down he was eligible for, revealed in a state tax return leak published by The New York Times.
But the document doesn't say where Trump's income comes from. Maddow explained to Fallon that that is another reasons to see returns, besides finding out Trump's wealth and taxes paid. Sources of income could show ties to Russia, China or foreign banks.
“If he’s got any sort of financial entanglement that might … change what he does on behalf of the country so as to deal with his personal stuff, we really need to know that,” Maddow said. “It’s a national security concern.
“And if none of those things are true … then show us the tax returns so we can stop freaking out about it. Because, otherwise, we’re gonna continue to worry that that might secretly be what’s driving him as long as he doesn’t show us what every other president has shown us.”
Amid the commentary and speculation, Fallon suggested that Maddow's scoop means she is “the person that people say, ‘Yeah, I want to share my information with her now.'”
Maddow said that “feels like a really big responsibility,” one she didn’t take lightly before her Tuesday night broadcast.
The anchor said she and her team worked “all day Monday” and “all day Tuesday” to make sure the documents weren't forged. She said they talked to tax experts, “followed the chain of evidence” and gave the White House hours to respond. The crew even produced alternate shows in case the documents proved to be false.
But, as the White House confirmed, the return is real. And Maddow said she’s going to be just as diligent with the other pieces of that jigsaw puzzle.
“I want to be trustworthy to my audience,” the anchor said. “We’re gonna keep plugging away. We’re gonna get this thing answered … And we’re gonna do it piece by piece by piece.”