Trump's tax return and the anonymous envelope that landed in a Canadian reporter's mailbox
Susanne Craig is glad she checked her work mailbox recently. Just over a week ago, the former Globe and Mail reporter who now works for The New York Times, received an envelope at her office. The package contained the document that everybody is talking about this week: Donald Trump's 1995 tax return.
Craig spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about the moment she found the anonymous document and what it means for Trump's campaign moving forward. Here is part of their conversation.
Carol Off: Susanne, what did you think when you first saw this envelope sitting in your mailbox?
Susanne Craig: I wasn't sure when I first saw it. I saw it was from the Trump Tower and I had just written a story a couple of weeks before on some of his business dealings and I thought either it was a love letter or potentially a complaint letter about the story. When I opened it the sheets were folded over, just once, and I unfolded them. I couldn't believe it. I looked down and it was a 1995 tax return for Donald Trump and Marla Maples [his wife at the time], who had signed one of the forms, Marla Trump.
CO: So what did you do?
SC: I couldn't believe it. I was just like, "No way — this has got to be a prank!" I mean, we get a lot of strange mail here. I walked over to a colleague's desk, David Barstow. We've been working on some stories together and trying to sort out some tax stuff. He was on the phone when I came over and he just looked up. I just showed him the document and his eyes just went -- "What!" He just hung up the phone on the person he was talking to. We went into a conference room and put them on the desk and started to pore over them. There was a lot to understand right away when you look at it and you see massive numbers with a negative sign. Your first instinct is just like, what is this and can this be real?
CO: You've had these documents for more than a week before you published the story. What were you doing for the past eight days?
SC: We sort of set up a team of reporters. There was four of us. We went on a number of tracks. The first one was we had a short term list of who could verify the documents. Donald Trump would be one of them. Marla Maples would be one of them. The accountant who signed it would be another one.
CO: The big breakthrough came when you found his tax accountant — the man who actually did this tax return for Donald Trump and his wife. He agreed to talk. What did he tell you?
SC: It was pretty incredible. My colleague David Barstow flew down to Florida, where he lives. The two of them went out and had coffee one morning. Jack Mitnick is his name and Mr. Mitnick and David have a long conversation. They didn't go into any of the details that would have violated Mr. Mitnick's obligation as a CPA but he was able to look at the return for us and identify that it was in fact the return that he prepared for him. He looked and his signature matched. He knew the numbers on the return.
The moment where we realized we were looking at the real deal was when we asked about some issues with a lot of the numbers on the form. The type face didn't match other numbers. We spent hours scrutinizing all the numbers and David put it on the table. He said these numbers just don't line up. What happened? How can this be? It looks like someone has doctored these. Mr. Mitnick, right away, he sort of smiled and he said, I remember this very well. He said he was using a software program at the time and everything on the screen looked great but when he went to print out the documents the printer was unable to print numbers that were that big. Mr. Mitnick actually used a typewriter to fill in the numbers that were missing.
CO: Just finally, The New York Times has a reputation for not revealing sources and going to lengths to protect them. I'm not going to ask you who you think your source is but do you know who sent it to you?
SC: I hate when people say no comment to me but I've just got to kind of say no comment on that one. We're just not going to chat about who, about anything, we know about the origin of the letter.
For more on this story, listen to our full interview with reporter Susanne Craig.