The White House has issued a scathing response to Donald Trump’s leaked tax returns, claiming the “dishonest media” was “desperate for ratings”.
In a statement, the government accused journalists of stealing the documents and publishing them illegally, despite rumours that the President may have leaked them himself.
Journalist David Cay Johnston said he was mailed the papers and they were revealed on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
“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,” said the White House statement.
The two-page returns from 2005 reveal that Mr Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, paid little income tax that year but they did pay alternative minimum tax – a rate for high earners who routinely use losses to offset income taxes.
Commentators have speculated the leaked taxes serve as a distraction from scrutiny over the Trump government’s ties to Russia. The relatively innocuous results from the 2005 document have prompted concerns that the President might be avoiding tax or hiding Russian dealings in his tax returns between 2006 and 2016, but there is no hint that the President has plans to release them.
The official response from the White House also raises questions over the freedom of the press and its contentious relationship with the new administration.
Read the full statement below:
"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."
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