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Trump Supporters Say Leaked Tax Document Vindicates the President

Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, thanked Rachel Maddow for proving that his father did pay his taxes as required.
Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr., left, speaks at the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, B.C., Feb.28, 2017.Jonathan Hayward / AP

Supporters of President Donald Trump crowed Tuesday night that disclosure of part of his 2005 federal income tax return proved what the president has said all along: that he pays his taxes to the tune of millions of dollars.

The White House confirmed that Trump paid $38 million in federal income tax on more than $150 million in income in 2005 after MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" said it would release the details.

Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, thanked Maddow on Twitter for proving that his father did pay his taxes as required.

And Fox News host Sean Hannity derided the "scandal" of the public's learning that Trump "took legal deductions!"

By contrast, Zac Petkanas, a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, alleged that the White House continues to withhold the rest of Trump's taxes "to hide what's in them such as financial connections with Russian oligarchs and the Kremlin."

Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, thanked MSNBC for proving that his father pays his taxes, as he has always said.NBC News

"If they can release some of the information, they can release all of the information," Petkanas said in a statement.

Other commentators and political observers were underwhelmed by what they learned.

Brian Fallon, who was press secretary for the presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called MSNBC's report a distraction, saying Democrats' focus should remain on Republicans' attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana, sounded a similar call, saying on Twitter that he was only "slightly interested in Trump['s] tax returns."

The White House alleged in a statement Tuesday night that Maddow and David Cay Johnston of violated federal law by disclosing two pages from Trump's 2005 return. In an on-air statement, Maddow said she was protected by the First Amendment.

The relevant federal statute, 26 USC 7213 of the U.S. Code, makes it a crime for government officials and certain private persons with legal access to release or distribute individuals' tax returns.

For example, an IRS official or accountant could be charged for releasing another individual's tax returns without the person's consent.

While the section says it's also illegal for anyone receiving such information in an "unauthorized" manner to print or publish it, the law hasn't typically been used against journalists, who regularly publish or report on materials whose underlying release is unauthorized, such as classified security information.