The New York Times published three pages from Donald Trump’s state tax returns for 1995. They show a loss of $916 million, which “could have” allowed him to pay no federal taxes for 18 years. (The story is here.)
That remains highly speculative until we can see the full returns. But the biggest problem is that publishing tax returns without permission is a crime. The Washington Post reports that the Executive Editor of the Times said that he would be willing to go to jail if he could publish Trump’s tax returns.
Read all about it after the jump. Then consider: Do you think these revelations will harm Trump’s election chances, as Clinton’s campaign is saying it will? Do you think this will end up harming the reputation of prestige journalism more than it will Trump? Won’t ordinary Americans appreciate Trump’s ability to avoid paying the IRS (if that, in fact, happened) while resenting the press’s illegal violation of his privacy?
On Saturday evening, the New York Times — which recently endorsed Hillary Clinton for president — published three pages of Trump’s 1995 income tax documents.
“The pages were mailed last month to Susanne Craig, a reporter at The Times who has written about Mr. Trump’s finances,” the paper explained in the story. “The documents were the first page of a New York State resident income tax return, the first page of a New Jersey nonresident tax return and the first page of a Connecticut nonresident tax return.”. . .
The takeaway from the Times’ story is that Trump “declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.”
From Callum Borchers, “The New York Times risked legal trouble to publish Donald Trump’s tax return,” The Washington Post:
The New York Times executive editor said during a visit to Harvard in September that he would risk jail to publish Donald Trump’s tax returns. He made good on his word Saturday night when the Times published Trump tax documents from 1995, which show the Republican presidential nominee claimed losses of $916 million that year — enough to avoid paying federal income taxes for as many as 18 years afterward.
Federal law makes it illegal to publish an unauthorized tax return:
It shall be unlawful for any person to whom any return or return information (as defined in section 6103(b)) is disclosed in a manner unauthorized by this title thereafter willfully to print or publish in any manner not provided by law any such return or return information. Any violation of this paragraph shall be a felony punishable by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.
Baquet said during a panel discussion at Harvard that if the Times’ lawyers advised him not to publish Trump tax returns, he would argue that such information is vital to the public interest because the real estate mogul’s “whole campaign is built on his success as a businessman and his wealth.”