Trump tax rev­e­la­tion punc­tu­ates week of po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Steve Peo­ples and Lau­rie Kell­man

NEW YORK >> Ever de­fi­ant, Don­ald Trump and his Repub­li­can al­lies em­braced a re­port on Sun­day that said the New York busi­ness­man may not have paid fed­eral in­come taxes for nearly two decades af­ter he and his com­pa­nies lost nearly $916 mil­lion in a sin­gle year.

The un­ex­pected rev­e­la­tion punc­tu­ated a week of mis­steps and ag­gres­sive per­sonal at­tacks from the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial con­tender, with early vot­ing al­ready un­der­way in some states and Elec­tion Day quickly ap­proach­ing.

If there was a bright spot to the ex­plo­sive story about his taxes in The New York Times, Trump sup­port­ers said, it was that it may shift the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion away from Trump’s week­long feud with a for­mer beauty queen he called “Miss Piggy” as he shamed her for gain­ing weight, and his un­founded sug­ges­tion Hil­lary Clin­ton may have cheated on her hus­band.

“He’s not been on mes­sage,” said Barry Bennett, a for­mer Trump ad­viser. “A week was wasted where he could have been talk­ing about the heroin epi­demic and jobs and ISIS. All the money in the world can’t get that time back.”

The mount­ing chal­lenges in­jected a new sense of ur­gency into Trump’s White House bid with the next pres­i­den­tial de­bate a week away.

Trump is de­cid­ing whether to use the de­bate stage to at­tack Clin­ton’s role in the in­fi­deli­ties of her hus­band, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s. That’s ac­cord­ing to a per­son with in­ti­mate knowl­edge of Trump’s think­ing as his se­nior ad­vis­ers hud­dled Sun­day for a rare ses­sion of de­bate prepa­ra­tion. The per­son was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss pub­licly the pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pub­licly, how­ever, Trump’s team was ag­gres­sively de­fi­ant on Sun­day.

Nei­ther New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie nor for­mer New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both top Trump sup­port­ers, dis­puted the re­port that said Trump’s loss in 1995 was big enough that he could have legally avoided pay­ing taxes for as many as 18 years.

On “Fox News Sun­day,” Christie de­clared it “a very, very good story for Don­ald Trump.” Giuliani called him “a ge­nius at how to take ad­van­tage of legal reme­dies that can help your com­pany survive and grow” on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I know our com­plex tax laws bet­ter than any­one who has ever run for pres­i­dent and am the only one who can fix them.” — Tweet from Don­ald Trump

“Don’t you think a man who has this kind of eco­nomic ge­nius is a lot bet­ter for the United States than a wo­man? And the only thing she’s ever pro­duced is a lot of work for the FBI check­ing out her emails,” Giuliani said.

The Trump did not ap­pear pub­licly on Sun­day, but weighed in on so­cial me­dia, say­ing he was sin­gu­larly qual­i­fied to fix the na­tion’s tax sys­tem.

“I know our com­plex tax laws bet­ter than any­one who has ever run for pres­i­dent and am the only one who can fix them,” Trump tweeted.

Clin­ton made no men­tion of Trump’s taxes dur­ing her events in North Carolina on Sun­day. But the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee re­posted a tweet from Trump, who wrote in 2012 that “HALF of Amer­i­cans don’t pay in­come tax de­spite crip­pling govt debt...”

“Now that’s pretty rich com­ing from a guy who paid $0 in taxes for 18 years,” Clin­ton tweeted.

Be­fore The Times story put Trump’s taxes back at the cen­ter of the cam­paign, the can­di­date and his back­ers were en­grossed in an ef­fort to change the sub­ject from his feud with 1996 Miss Uni­verse, Ali­cia Machado, and his mid­dle-of-thenight tweets that di­rected vot­ers to what he called her “sex tape.”

The on­line taunts re­ferred to footage from a Span­ish re­al­ity show in 2005 in which Machado was a con­tes­tant and ap­peared on cam­era in bed with a male con­tes­tant. The im­ages are grainy and do not in­clude nu­dity, though Machado later ac­knowl­edged that she was hav­ing sex in the video.

On Satur­day night in Man­heim, Penn­syl­va­nia, Trump im­i­tated Clin­ton’s stum­bles as she left this year’s 9/11 me­mo­rial service ill with pneu­mo­nia and questioned her loy­alty to her hus­band, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

“Why should she be, right?” he asked. “Why should she be?”

In a story pub­lished on­line late Satur­day, The Times said it anony­mously re­ceived the first pages of Trump’s 1995 state in­come tax fil­ings in New York, New Jersey and Con­necti­cut. The fil­ings show a net loss of $915,729,293 in fed­eral tax­able in­come for the year.

That Trump was los­ing money dur­ing the early to mid-1990s — a pe­riod marked by bank­rupt­cies and poor busi­ness de­ci­sions — was al­ready well es­tab­lished.

But the records ob­tained by the Times show losses of such a mag­ni­tude that they po­ten­tially al­lowed Trump to avoid pay­ing taxes for years, pos­si­bly un­til the end of the last decade.

His cam­paign said that Trump had paid “hun­dreds of mil­lions” of dol­lars in other kinds of taxes over the years.

Trump has re­fused to re­lease his tax re­turns, break­ing with four decades of pres­i­den­tial cam­paign tra­di­tion. Trump has said his at­tor­neys are ad­vis­ing him to keep his tax re­turns pri­vate un­til a govern­ment au­dit is com­pleted.

IRS Com­mis­sioner John Kosk­i­nen told a House com­mit­tee Sept. 21 that peo­ple un­der IRS au­dit are free to re­lease their re­turns, or IRS let­ters in­form­ing a per­son they’re being au­dited.

Trump has done nei­ther. Clin­ton has pub­licly re­leased nearly 40 years’ worth, and Trump’s run­ning mate, In­di­ana Gov. Mike Pence, has re­leased 10 years of his tax re­turns.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton meets with African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity lead­ers Sun­day at Mert’s Heart & Soul in Char­lotte, N.C., to dis­cuss the ur­gency of ad­dress­ing racial, eco­nomic and so­cial jus­tice is­sues.

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