Back in 2016, when Donald Trump defied convention (yet again) by refusing to release his tax returns, a St. Louis systems analyst named Charles “Chaz” Littlejohn decided to take matters into his own hands. At the time, pretty much every political reporter in America was searching for those returns (if they weren’t already looking for the Apprentice tapes), but Littlejohn had a different idea. He rejoined Booz Allen Hamilton, the government contractor he had quit a few years earlier (back when Edward Snowden was still there) so that he could consult once again for the Internal Revenue Service. He then worked his way into the agency’s most sensitive database, where he collected Trump’s returns in a manner that he hoped would cover his tracks.
For about six months, Littlejohn stored his bombshell material in the hard drive of his customized Apple iPod, until he finally delivered the goods to The New York Times, in August 2019. He then stole more of Trump’s tax information and gave that to the paper, too. But he wasn’t quite done. Eventually, he went back to the database and absconded with tax information associated with thousands of the country’s wealthiest individuals. Six weeks before the 2020 election, the Littlejohn-sourced material became a cornerstone of the Times’ landmark report detailing the Trump Organization’s stunning losses and byzantine tax-avoidance schemes. Around this time, he also contacted ProPublica and anonymously provided the material for an exposé on the ultra-affluent—including Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett—paying little and sometimes nothing in taxes, too.