Donald Trump defended himself on Monday from mounting criticism over his taxes.
The billionaire, speaking at a rally in Colorado, was responding to a Saturday New York Times report that revealed he suffered a $916 million loss in 1995 and could have avoided paying federal income taxes for 18 years.
Trump argued that he “brilliantly used” US tax law “to pay no more tax than I am legally required.”
Trump’s campaign previously neither confirmed nor denied the accuracy of The Times report on his taxes, which came after a reporter was mailed three pages of Trump’s 1995 tax returns.
Instead, a campaign statement accused The Times of “illegally” publishing the returns and praised Trump for using the tax code to his advantage, a line that Trump’s surrogates repeated. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and others insisted that Trump was a “genius” for taking advantage of the tax codes.
“As a businessman and real estate developer, I have used the tax laws to my benefit and to the benefit of my company and my investors and my employees,” Trump said Monday. “Honestly, I have brilliantly used those laws. I have often said on the campaign trail that I have a fiduciary responsibility to pay no more tax than I am legally required, like anybody else, or, put another way, to pay as little tax as legally possible.”
“And I must tell you, I hate the way they spend our tax dollars,” he continued.
The Republican nominee labelled the US tax laws he took advantage of as unfair, despite that fact that he was, self-admittedly, a “big beneficiary” of them.
“But I’m working for you now, I’m not working for Trump,” Trump said, to raucous cheers. “Believe me.”
“Fixing our broken tax code is one of the main reasons I’m running for president,” he said. “I’ve been saying from the beginning of this campaign how ridiculous, complex, and yes, unfair the tax system is. It is. It’s an unfair system. And so complex that few people understand it. Fortunately, I understand it.”
Interestingly, Trump’s tax plan does not address the loopholes he took advantage of in his 1995 return.
Trump also compared the economic atmosphere of the early 1990s to the Great Depression of the 1930s, saying that was the only time period that was worse economically in the country. He said that the Great Recession of the late 2000s was not quite as bad as the early 1990s.
“I was able to use the tax laws of this country and my business acumen to dig out of the real estate mess, you would call it a depression, when few others were able to do what I did,” he said, before cutting himself off and saying “I’m a star” in response to a comment from the crowd.
In a speech from earlier Monday, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton lambasted Trump for “contributing nothing” to the US, adding that he keeps “dissing” the country along the campaign trail.
“Yesterday his campaign was bragging it makes him a ‘genius,'” Clinton said. “Here’s my question: What kind of a genius loses $1 billion in a single year?”
Clinton said that “how anyone can lose a dollar, let alone a billion dollars in the casino industry, is kind of beyond me.”
“It’s just hard to figure,” she continued. “But as a result, it doesn’t look like he paid a dime for two decades.”
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