Donald Trump’s campaign staff went into overdrive Sunday in an attempt to recover from a front-page New York Times revelation that the Republican presidential nominee likely avoided paying federal income taxes for several years.
Bucking the long-held practice of presidential candidates to release their tax records, Trump has persistently refused to release his tax documents.
The Times obtained copies of portions of Trump’s 1995 tax records, which show that he declared a $916 million loss. The Times pointed out that the reported losses could have allowed Trump to avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years.
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Trump asserted that he was “smart” for not paying taxes when pressed on the issued during the recent debate by Democrat Hillary Clinton.
In response to the Times story, Trump questioned the newsworthiness of the story and accused the paper of having ulterior motives with it publication.
“The only news here is that the more than 20 year-old alleged tax document was illegally obtained, a further proof that the New York Times, like establishment media in general, is an extension of the Clinton Campaign, the Democratic Party and their global special interests,” the Trump letter states.
The letter goes to to state that Trump has paid “hundreds of millions of dollars” in a variety of taxes, including sales, property and excise taxes.
The letter also attempts to deflect attention to Clinton’s email scandal, which the candidate attempted to do during the debate.
As for Trump saying the Times possesses an “alleged tax document,” the story notes that the man who prepared Trump’s taxes that year verified their authenticity.
Trump supporters quickly jumped to the candidate’s defense.
“He’s a genius, absolute genius,” former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani gushed on ABC’s “This Week.” “This was a perfectly legal application of the tax code, and he would’ve been a fool not to take advantage of it.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie echoed that assessment.
“The genius of Donald Trump has been to make sure he follows the law,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added that he thought that “this is a very, very good story for Donald Trump.”
However, several GOP heavyweights haven’t rushed to Trump’s defense.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who last month called on Trump to release his tax returns, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who also urged Trump to do so, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus have yet to comment on the Times story.
Needless to say, the Clinton camp pounced on the story.
Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, was quick to point out on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump is taking advantage of tax laws is a way that his blue-collar supports cannot.
“We see Donald Trump is having to defend the fact that he may not have paid taxes for 20 years, which is something most Americans don’t have the option to do,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted Trump in a statement released Sunday.
“Trump is a billion-dollar loser who won’t release his taxes because they’ll expose him as a spoiled, rich brat who lost the millions he inherited from his father,” Reid wrote.