Donald Trump calls 2005 tax return release 'fake news'

US President Donald Trump said that the release of a portion of his 2005 income tax form is "fake news".
US President Donald Trump said that the release of a portion of his 2005 income tax form is "fake news". PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday (March 15) denounced as "fake news" the release by journalists of a portion of his 2005 income tax form, just hours after his administration appeared to confirm the accuracy of the documents.

Two pages from the president's 2005 tax returns were disclosed Tuesday evening by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow after being mailed to David Cay Johnston, a former New York Times reporter. They show Trump paid US$38 million (S$53.7 million) in federal income taxes on reported income of US$150 million, an effective tax rate of 25 per cent.

The White House confirmed those numbers before the show and appeared to accept the document's authenticity by criticising a story "about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago" and stating that it is "totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns."

But in a Twitter message posted just before 7am on Wednesday, the president appeared to backtrack from that acknowledgment.

"Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, 'went to his mailbox' and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!" he tweeted.

During an appearance on Maddow's show Tuesday night, Johnston speculated that Trump might have leaked the pages of his own tax returns even though he was the first modern presidential candidate to refuse to publicly release them.

"It's entirely possible that Donald sent this to me," Johnston said, though he added that he did not know whether that was the case. "It's a possibility, and it could have been leaked by someone at his direction."

Maddow trumpeted the returns as "breaking news" on Twitter an hour before her 9pm show began, raising expectations that her report would reveal striking financial news about the president.

Instead, the two pages largely confirmed that Trump made a significant amount of money in 2005 and paid millions in taxes after writing off about US$100 million in business losses that reduced the overall tax payment.

One of Trump's sons, Donald Trump Jr., made that point in a Twitter message shortly after the show ended, thanking Maddow for releasing the information.

"Thank you Rachel Maddow for proving to your #Trump hating followers how successful @realDonaldTrump is & that he paid $40mm in taxes! #Taxes," it read.

The news about Trump's taxes from more than a decade ago comes as the president is struggling to push through his overhaul of the nation's health care system and faces continuing questions about connections between Russia and his advisers.

Trump is to travel on Wednesday to Detroit and Nashville to talk about his plans for the economy.

And moments after the president's Twitter message about the taxes, he also criticised a new music video by rapper Snoop Dogg, in which the musician points a toy gun at a clown dressed as the president.

Trump suggested a double standard, suggesting that if the rapper had pointed a gun at a depiction of former President Barack Obama, the reaction would have been different.

"Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!"