Bad Return: MSNBC Publication Triggers A Wave Of Responses From Mockery To Criminal Allegations

imgresThe build up last night on MSNBC had my phone ringing off the hook.  Rachel Maddow proclaimed “we’ve got the Trump returns.”  It turned out to be just the 2005 filing. Well, not the 2005 filing, the first two pages.  Worse yet, it turned out to be an entirely predictable tax return for a wealthy businessman with tons of deductibles.  It seemed like the tax version of Al Capone’s safe with Geraldo Rivera.  What was particularly odd is that MSNBC was “all in” — even after seeing that there was little there.  Maddow led with a long list of things we want to know from Trump’s tax return.  But none of those things were in the return.  They lined  up experts who seemed a lot like the “weather center” reporters the night before covering the major snow storm in D.C.   Reporters literally showed a dusting on cars in parking lots and spoke breathlessly about the possible storm that never came.  The tax experts were left in the same curious position — discussing what might have been shown.  As a legal commentator, I bowed out.  It was like being called as a seismologists to discuss an earthquake that never happened.  It is certainly true that Trump and Melania paid is a rate of less than 4 percent on their personal income — $5.3 million. However, they paid an additional $31 million under the alternative minimum tax, or AMT.  They used every loophole and tactic to reduce payments but those loopholes were legal and used by many in his tax bracket.

Having said that, the White House and others went too far in raising allegations of criminal conduct by Maddow and MSNBC in reporting on the story. There was also a return to the mantra of the “dishonest media.”  There was nothing dishonest in publishing the return. It was clearly overplayed but it was not dishonest to cover the leak.

I have a lot of respect for Maddow, who is as smart as they come and often offers penetrating analysis.  However, one had to wonder if MSNBC was played.  Why would someone leak a tax return that would seem to support Trump?  It is a federal crime to do so with potential jail time of five years. Who would risk it for this?   Even CNBC called the story a victory for Trump.

In fairness to Maddow, there is no legal reason that I know preventing President Trump from releasing his tax returns and he should do so.  There is a long tradition of such transparency in history and I am very disturbed by the failure to do so in this Administration.

Having said that, the MSNBC seemed intent on riding this story despite the fact that it moved little.  Donald Trump earned more than $150 million in the year 2005 and paid $38 million in taxes.

After decrying the illegal disclosure of a return, the White House noted “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 . . . That being said, Mr. Trump paid $38 million even after taking into account large-scale depreciation for construction, on an income of more than $150 million, 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.”

Here is the full statement:

“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.”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.

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.
“Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns.

The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans.”

I agree with Maddow that MSNBC has a journalistic basis for publishing this return under the First Amendment, even though publication is also a federal crime. I also did not like the reference to “the dishonest media.”  There was nothing dishonest about reporting on such a leak.  It is wrong to continually accuse media of being dishonest or liars when they are performing their important function under our Constitution.  I do believe that Trump is facing a hostile media and that coverage has been at times slanted. However, media remains one of the most important institutions in protecting our liberties.
I also did not appreciate the allegation that MSNBC violated the law.  Most leaks technically violate the law but they are at the core of some of the most important historical reforms in our history.  From the Pentagon Papers to Watergate, leaks have revealed illegality and dishonestly long shielded by the government.  Administrations have sought to find those who steal and release such documents, but have historically respected the right of the media to cover such leaks.   Once again, this constant drumbeat against the media needs to end.  The White House is perfectly correct in challenging biased reporting and I have seen plenty of instances of such reporting in the last few months.  However, Administrations should not throw around criminal allegations against the media for reporting a clearly newsworthy leak. It turned out to be less important than MSNBC suggested and that was something of an embarrassment. However, in light of the President’s refusal to turn over his returns, it was by any definition newsworthy for publication to address some of the long-standing allegations.
What do you think?

160 thoughts on “Bad Return: MSNBC Publication Triggers A Wave Of Responses From Mockery To Criminal Allegations”

  1. The BEST thing that Mad-Cow has done to reinforce the loser Hilbots. THang is we despise them and will do everythring we have in our power (votes) to defeat them

  2. rachel maddow is highly credentialed – and her book “Drift: the Unmooring of Military Power” is a worthy read IMO. But somehow along the way she lost her integrity………..

  3. Return to Sender:
    She wrote upon it:
    Return to sender, address unknown.
    No such person, no such zone.

    This time I’m gonna take it myself
    And put it right in her hand.
    And if it comes back the very next day
    Then I’ll understand the writing on it

    Return to sender, address unknown.
    No such number, no such zone.

  4. Obama Inc. Spent $36 Mil Fighting Freedom of Info Requests

    March 15, 2017

    Daniel Greenfield

    One of those dangers of democracy that no one in the media seemed to think was so at the time.

    The Obama administration in its final year in office spent a record $36.2 million on legal costs defending its refusal to turn over federal records under the Freedom of Information Act, according to an Associated Press analysis of new U.S. data that also showed poor performance in other categories measuring transparency in government.

    Most transparent enemy of press freedom ever.

    The obvious question is why do this.


    1. Lock reporters in closets, wiretap them and hack them?

    2. Fight records requests to the death

    3. Make a special point of targeting whistleblowers (and by that I mean actual whistleblowers, not traitors passing classified national security information to the enemy like Bradley Manning and Snowden)

    The obvious answers are that

    A. Obama Inc. was compulsively paranoid

    B. Had something to hide

    And the two are not mutually exclusive.

  5. It’s great to see that Rachel Maddow and MSNBC still cherishes the privacy of people’s financial records. She can be trusted with personal information even when she disagrees with your politics.

    You can still have faith in the mainstream media, just ask them.

  6. “After cutting through the hype, we’re back to an old argument. Is it somehow selfish to advocate tax cuts? Maybe. But that doesn’t make it wrong. After all, unlike progressives who seek massive new state benefits, at least I’m seeking to keep what I’ve earned and not to pick another man’s pocket to gain what I want. In a world consumed by greed, that’s the most dangerous greed of all.”

    1. what are those massive new benefits you srefer to? Do you things like SS COLA increases that reflect actual inflation, not just “some” COL factors? Or, less expensive, better healthcare via Medicare for all citizens?
      Or do you mean open borders & welfare for immigrants so they’ll work for cheaper wages – while the middle class is forced to pay the costs?

  7. “The unauthorized release or publishing of federal tax returns is a criminal offense, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in jail.”

    1. Good one Bob! (But seriously, you do know this is all Putin’s doing, don’t you?)

  8. What Ivan has stated is very true, Professor. The media hasn’t cleaned up it’s act, I doubt that it is capable of it because they are the quintessential ideologues who don’t embrace policies because they believe they are the best policies, they believe that whatever policies they embrace are always the most moral policies.

  9. Johnathan is my buddy, but he’s having a hard time balancing his liberal leanings with his desire to maintain truth. I can totally understand the press’ role in the First Amendment to inform the public of the leaks that expose the inner workings of our gov’t, but I don’t understand how they are not In jail for releasing personal information about a private citizen.

  10. “…I have a lot of respect for Maddow, who is as smart as they come and often offers penetrating analysis…”

    Misplaced respect. Smart? You mean like when, a couple days pre-election, she did her haughty and universal ubiquitous progressive liberal mantra, smirking, “informing” the audience that no matter how anyone counts the votes, it is mathematically “impossible” for Trump to win? You mean THAT kinda “smart?”

    The alleged smartest guy in the room, “scholar” Obama parroted Maddow’s false claim.
    Let’s hope such claims of superiority are now a permanent liberal progressive fixture/institution. Nothing like watching persons gleefully disobey Sun Tzu’s first rule of war: “never underestimate your opponent.”

    If Maddow offered “penetrating analysis,” it exists only in her liberal progressive bubble.

    1. I guess Maddow is a wit in some circles..if she wipes the foam off her mouth first.

    2. Joseph Jones – it could be her penetrating analysis only works on her girlfriend.

    3. JT supports the MSM because they invite him to publicly opine – which helps polish his bona fides as a connected lawyer for prospective clients in expensive trouble.

      Like most people, he has a family and expensive house/lifestyle to maintain.

  11. “Once again, this constant drumbeat against the media needs to end.”

    It will not end and his supporters don’t want it to end because the MSM is the enemy. I love your blog, but you fail to acknowledge the simple fact that the MSM has been an adversary dead set on destroying Trump from the day he announced his run for the Presidency. They have abandoned all journalistic ethics to achieve their ends. You’re upset that Trump calls the media “dishonest” despite the fact that 94% of the population agrees with Trump! Your bearings are way off, Prof.

    1. The “media” is flourishing, but the MSM is suffering. Independent media is exploding while the MSM withers. This is not a story that the MSM wants to cover, naturally. Some of the numbers for independent media are astronomical.

  12. The really pathetic aspect of this nonsensical circus like activity is that there is much, much, much, more valid criticism to be addressed. DDT and his carnival need to be exposed for the charlatans and idiots they are, not for simply taking advantage of the tax loopholes used by Republicans and Democrats alike. The real issue here is that DDT promised to do away with the tax loopholes and because he knew them all, he was the guy to do it. So, let’s hear about the hypocritical DDT instead of this pablum. Maddow should know better.

      1. Also….”Unsubstantiated speculations” is now considered to be “Reporting” the news.

    1. Any human could have contrived that two page document. There is no social security number, no signature, and nothing to authenticate it.
      Ok. I admit it. Jim sent it by U.S. Mail after we got off the raft on the Mississippi in Arkansas just the other day. He just mailed it to an NBC mailing address– not to Rachel whatshername.

      1. Jack Ruby – just to get down to it, it could be forged. Who is Rachel Maddow to say that this is his ACTUAL tax return?

      1. Even assuming, arguendo, that this were true–which it’s not–then you should be delighted with Trump, rather than posting as though you are somehow criticizing him. After all, you favored candidate, Hillary Clinton, was 100% owned by Goldman and the banking community. Or, are you merely taking advantage of your status as a leftist to make a comment that would normally be considered hypocritical but is not considered so because of your leftist status, since, by definition, only non-leftists can be hypocritical?

        1. Well said Ralph! Trump is coming out as Clinton! I’d think they’d be with him now 🙂

          As to JT’s post. Yes it’s completely legitimate to publish Trump’s tax returns. Brock is paying 5 million for the person who legally coughs up his other returns. I figure Trump could make a cool 5 million by doing it now. It’s a good deal and he even gets paid for doing what he should have done for free!

          What MSNBC is doing isn’t criminal but that doesn’t mean it’s doing the right thing by our nation. They seem bent on helping a coup take place. I really resent that. I don’t want a military/IC coup and I think to nurture that along is odious. Maddow and MSNBC are hostile. They are willing to help foment a coup and I think this should be called out for what it is–a betrayal of our govt. and our citizens.

          I’m sick of their propaganda and sick of their attempts to harm our people. If they want to focus on what Trump is doing wrong, I’m all for that. If he calls them dishonest for making an honest report on what he’s doing, that’s wrong on his part. But calling them dishonest for this is the truth. Maddow is smart in that way that many of the oligarch’s minions are smart-they’ll do anything for their paycheck and they do know how to make a buck. Other than that, I’m not seeing a shinning intellect or a profile in courage!

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