President Donald Trump lashed out Wednesday morning at a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who forced him to release information about a decade-old tax return Tuesday night.
'Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, "went to his mailbox" and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!' Trump tweeted.
The reporter, David Caye Johnston, fired back minutes later: 'Gee, Donald, your White House confirmed my story. POTUS fake Tweet. Sad!'
Johnston, appearing an hour earlier on the Trump nemesis CNN, said it was possible the president himself sent him the top pages from his 2005 IRS return in order to generate what ended up being a PR victory.
The pages he presented on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show were stamped 'CLIENT COPY.'
'Yes,' Johnston said, when persistent Trump critic Chris Cuomo asked if the president could have been his nameless, faceless source.
'Donald has a long history of leaking things about himself, and doing it directly and indirectly. So it's a possibility.'
'The anger with which the White House responded suggests to me, not likely, however.' he added. 'It's when something gets leaked he's happy about, he doesn't complain.'
Johnson had said during Maddow's over-hyped Tuesday night broadcast that 'it's entirely possible that Donald Trump sent this to me. Donald Trump has, over the years, leaked all sorts of things.'
Cuomo suggested to him on Wednesday that the White House's rapid-response speed – blasting out the relevant information before Maddow's lengthy on-air windup finally found its target – was suspicious.
But Johnston responded that he had given the White House a heads-up, sending Trump's aides the document in his possession and giving them the chance to leak it to other journalists.
'They behaved pretty unethically for people in the White House press office,' he charged. 'Because I sent them the document. And they proceeded then to give out the information to competing news organizations.'
'Professional PR people don't do things like that. I've never had a White House – and my experience goes back 50 years – do something like that.'