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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Trump tax return story got a major break in Florida



The New York Times had a bombshell in Manhattan — a partial copy of Donald Trump’s 1995 federal tax return — but it took a trip to Florida to make the story a reality.

Times reporter David Barstow, a former powerhouse at the St. Petersburg Times, visited Palm Beach County in recent days where he interviewed, in a bagel shop, the accountant who prepared Trump’s tax return.

From the story behind the story, as told by Susanne Craig:

We were skeptical as we examined the tax records, though much of the information looked accurate. They were signed by Mr. Trump’s wife at the time, Marla Maples, and by Mr. Trump, whose recognizable handwriting renders his signature in jagged, oversize letters. Other details matched up.

But, of course, we needed a lot more before we could publish an article.

We were initially thrown off by a quirk in the records noticed by Megan: On the line on which Mr. Trump had reported his huge loss — of $915,729,293 — the first two digits did not line up with the next seven. Could the document have been doctored?

We hired tax experts to guide us through the math. We researched the 1995 tax code. We reached out to anyone who might have viewed Mr. Trump’s records during that period.

But the breakthrough came when David traveled to Florida and tracked down Jack Mitnick, the semiretired accountant who had prepared and signed Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

Mr. Mitnick was initially reluctant to talk, but he eventually agreed to meet David in a bagel shop.

In a conversation there, Mr. Mitnick not only said the records appeared to be authentic; he also solved the mystery of the digits that did not line up. It turned out that the tax preparation software he had used did not allow him to enter a loss of nine figures. So, he recalled, he had to manually enter the first two digits, using an IBM Selectric typewriter.

“This is legit,” Mitnick told Barstow.

[Last modified: Monday, October 3, 2016 2:30am]


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