The Note: Trump's 2005 tax return leaves a lot to be desired

Two pages of Trump's 2005 tax return were released Tuesday.

ByABC News
March 15, 2017, 8:15 AM


Day No. 55

THE BIG STORY: If this slice of an old tax return wasn’t leaked by someone in the close Trump orbit, it may as well have been, or someone wishes they had the idea, at least. What exactly do we know about President Trump – his finances, his business connections, his potential conflicts of interest – that we didn’t know before Tuesday night? He paid a pile of money to the government after making a really big pile of money in one particular year. He would have paid less to the government if not for the Alternative Minimum Tax. And, well, that’s about all that can be gleaned based on two pages of a 1040 from a dozen years ago. Yes, what we don’t know is a reminder of why tax returns – the full documents – matter. Yes, the White House confirmation of authenticity explodes the myth that active audits have kept details of the president’s taxes from public scrutiny. But the cable hype and confirmation that the president did pay federal taxes, at least during one year in the middle of last decade, will only make it easier for Trump allies to argue that he is under unfair attack. “CLIENT COPY” may be part of an elaborate scheme, or a huge clue, but the impact of this return is essentially the same.

THE SLEEPER STORY: A (partial) snowstorm and a (partial) tax return can’t obscure it: The health care overhaul that’s, so far, favored by both House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and President Trump is in real danger in the place that passage was supposed to be easiest. Now House moderates are joining with conservative colleagues to back away from the measure, for opposing reasons that again tell the story of GOP divisions. It’s a storyline that looks likely to end badly for the push to “repeal and replace,” and could be equally bad for the tenuous Trump-Ryan relationship, amid talk that the Trump team may cut a deal without the speaker’s overt blessing. “This is it,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday, again committing to this bill’s being only the first of three “prongs” to overhaul, but an essential first step. Prongs can be wonderful, spiky things. But can they save the Trump/Ryan health care overhaul?

THE SHINY STORY: Yes, a campaign event – already, and again. President Trump hits the trail tonight in Nashville, Tennessee. Maybe he will need a pick-me-up at the end of what promises to be a long day. House members return to town in time to slam his health care bill; his travel ban hits courts from Maryland to Hawaii; the FBI director could make him miserable at any moment with a Russia update; the Federal Reserve is expected to boost interest rates; and, now, there’s a new matter of taxes. But maybe there’s something else – something digitally savvy, say – at work in the decision to hold 2020 events in early 2017. On the official invite page is this disclaimer: “You may only register up two (2) tickets per mobile number per event.” So yes, there is an active effort to maintain email cellphone databases by the Trump operation. The president controls the message tonight, and his campaign operation churns on for new opportunities.

TDLR: Two pages from Trump’s 2005 tax returns released Tuesday night show he paid $38 million in federal taxes on an income of over $150 million.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: Washington, D.C., got its first real taste of snow this year … in March. Snow blanketed the nation’s capital, causing some delays, schools to close and allowing people to sled down Capitol Hill.


-- TRUMP PAID $38 MILLION IN TAXES IN 2005: The White House said Tuesday night that Donald Trump paid $38 million in federal taxes on income of more than $150 million in 2005 after independent journalist David Cay Johnston obtained the purported first two pages of that return and published them online. Johnston also appeared on MSNBC Tuesday night to report on the documents, which he says were delivered anonymously to his mailbox. Johnston speculated that Trump, who is the first president in decades not to release his taxes, or someone close to him, may have been the source of the documents. ABC's JUSTIN FISHEL has more:

--WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE IS SAYING: "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," a statement from the White House said. "That being said, Mr. Trump paid $38 million dollars even after taking into account large scale depreciation for construction, on an income of more than $150 million dollars, as well as paying 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."

--HAPPENING TODAY - TRUMP EXPECTED TO ANNOUNCE ROLLBACK OF AUTO EMISSIONS REGULATIONS: President Donald Trump is expected to announce a rollback of Obama-era auto emission and fuel regulations in his visit to Ypsilanti, Michigan, this morning. Trump will use his meeting with auto executives and workers to announce a restart of the review of vehicle fuel efficiency rules, or CAFE standards, that the auto industry has called for, ABC’s ALEXANDER MALLIN and AVERY MILLER report. The rules put forward by the Obama administration sought to raise the fleet average fuel efficiency to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025 from 27.5 miles per gallon in 2010. But the Trump administration review is expected to challenge the feasibility of the 2022 through 2025 vehicle emissions rules.

--MARCH MADNESS HITS THE HILL: Throughout the day at, ABC’s Rick Klein and ESPN’s Andy Katz – co-hosts of the “Capital Games” podcast - will be on Capitol Hill with members of Congress as they fill out their brackets for the college basketball tournament. The action starts with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at 10 am, with guests including Sen. John McCain, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Joe Manchin, and much more. Follow along at


BORDER PATROL CHIEF: 'IF WE DO IT RIGHT' THE WALL WILL BE 'EFFECTIVE.' U.S. Border Patrol Chief Ron Vitiello, who was ceremonially sworn in on Tuesday, said that a border wall done "right" will be important and effective. Vitiello takes office at a time when Border Patrol, which is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is the face of many of the Trump administration's policies on immigration enforcement, reports ABC's GENEVA SANDS. Trump has repeatedly called for the building of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border -- a pillar of his campaign promises to stem the tide of drugs and people coming into the U.S.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO ANNOUNCE CHARGES IN YAHOO HACKS. The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday will announce charges against four people with suspected ties to the Russian government in connection to hacking attacks against Yahoo!, sources tell ABC News. Four people will be charged: 3 in Russia and 1 in Canada, according to the sources. ABC’s PIERRE THOMAS and MIKE LEVINE have more:

REPUBLICANS CHANGE THEIR TUNE ON CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE. After the Congressional Budget Office released its report Monday on the Republican-backed American Health Care Act, estimating that if the bill becomes law, 14 million more people will be uninsured next year — a number that grows to 24 million by 2026 — supporters of the plan were quick to levy complaints against the office despite previous praise. "The CBO looked at a portion of our plan but not the entire plan," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. "We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out." ABC's ADAM KELSEY has more:

TILLERSON USED ALIAS IN SOME CLIMATE EMAILS AT EXXON. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used a secondary email address under the name Wayne Tracker to send and receive information about climate change and other topics during his tenure at Exxon Mobil, according to the New York State Attorney General's Office. Exxon Mobil confirmed the secondary email account and stressed that it was not used exclusively for climate change matters, saying in a statement it was used for "a broad range of business-related topics," write ABC's MEGHAN KENEALLY and AARON KATERSKY. The state attorney general's office discovered the Wayne Tracker account during an investigation of Exxon Mobil.

HOW THE GOP HEALTH CARE PLAN AFFECTS WOMEN. Democrats argue that the American Health Care Act, the new Republican health care legislation, would set back advancements made in women’s health care. Republicans disagree. In a one page memo about the bill on the Ways and Means Committee website, Republicans state, “Our proposal specifically prohibits any gender discrimination.” ABC’s MARYALICE PARKS takes a closer look at some key provisions in the Republican bill moving through the House of Representatives and how they might affect women and girls.

TOP NAVY OFFICIALS CHARGED IN 'STAGGERING' BRIBERY SCHEME: OFFICIALS. Nine high-ranking U.S. Navy officers, including one former admiral, have been charged with trading classified information in exchange for travel, dinner and prostitution services from a foreign defense contractor -- the latest charges in the widening probe, according to the Justice Department. According to the Justice Department, the Navy officials allegedly took in expensive travel and entertainment expenses as well as prostitution services while steering contracts toward the company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), and blocking its competitors. ABC’s RYAN STRUYK has more.

CONGRESSMAN ALLEGEDLY HANDCUFFED AT ICE OFFICE. A U.S. congressman said he was briefly handcuffed after refusing to leave a meeting at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Chicago. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said he participated in a sit-in at the Chicago ICE headquarters after attending a meeting there ABC's KARMA ALLEN writes. "Federal police giving us our first warning that we risk arrest if we stay at Chicago ICE HQ," Gutierrez tweeted Monday.

ACLU AMONG MORE THAN 130 GROUPS ASKING CONGRESS FOR HEARINGS ON TRUMP IMMIGRATION ORDERS. The American Civil Liberties Union and more than 130 other civil rights and religious organizations have asked Congress to hold oversight hearings on Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration. In recent letters to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, the groups urged congressional oversight of the three executive actions: a new travel ban scheduled to go into effect Thursday and two other orders on border security and Interior Department enforcement, signed Jan. 25, which the ACLU said in a statement are all "ripe with civil rights violations and riddled with constitutional red flags," ABC's JENNIFER HANSLER notes.


@rickklein: David Cay Johnston: "Venom and the anger and the falsehoods in WH statement suggest he's probably not the source..." @GMA

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

@DavidCayJ: Trump fans call & harass my wife & 1 of my children after I break story White House confirmed. Sad! Let's have open debate, not threats.

@GlennKesslerWP: Until someone gets the attachments to a Trump tax return, it's really not much of a news story. The scoop is in the attachments.

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

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