WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump‘s business losses in 1995 were so large that they could have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for as many as 18 years, according to records obtained by The New York Times.
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.
“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 on Sunday.
His campaign accused the newspaper of working to benefit the Republican nominee’s presidential rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and said that Trump had paid “hundreds of millions” of dollars in other kinds of taxes over the years.
Trump’s allies defended him during appearances on the Sunday news shows.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Trump “had some failures and then he built an empire” and called the businessman “a genius at how to take advantage of legal remedies that can help your company survive and grow.”
“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 told ABC’s “This Week.”
In a separate interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Giuliani noted that “poor” people take advantage of similar “loopholes,” referring to the millions of Americans who aren’t required to pay federal income taxes each year because their incomes are too low.
Clinton’s primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who made wealth inequality a top campaign issue, said that assuming Trump’s tax strategy was legal, “what it tells you is you have a corrupt tax system which says to ordinary people, you’re supposed to pay your taxes. But if you’re a billionaire, there are all kinds of loopholes that you can utilize that enable you … not to pay anything in taxes.”
Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, used the Times story to needle Trump about not releasing his tax returns and contending during his first debate with Clinton that not paying federal income taxes would show he was “smart.”
Mook said in a statement Saturday that Trump apparently avoided paying taxes for two decades “while tens of millions of working families paid theirs. He calls that ‘smart.'” Mook added: “Now that the gig is up, why doesn’t he go ahead and release his returns to show us all how ‘smart’ he really is?”
Since 1976, every major party presidential nominee has released tax returns. 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.
But after initially saying that he would make his returns public during the course of his campaign, Trump switched course, citing what he said were years of ongoing IRS audits and the advice of his attorneys to keep them private as those audits proceed.
Former IRS officials have expressed skepticism that anyone would be audited so frequently. And IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, when was asked at a House committee hearing on Sept. 21 whether people under IRS audit are free to release their returns or IRS letters informing them they are being audited, said they are.
In its story, the Times said the three pages of documents were mailed last month to a Times reporter who had written about Trump’s finances. A postmark indicated they had been sent from New York City and the return address claimed the envelope had been sent from Trump Tower, the newspaper said.
Trump’s campaign did not directly address the authenticity of the excerpts from Trump’s tax filings. Former Trump accountant Jack Mitnick, whose name appears as Trump’s tax preparer of the filings, confirmed their authenticity, the newspaper reported.
On the campaign trail, Trump continued to veer from scripted economic arguments to personal attacks on Clinton.
At a rally Saturday night, Trump questioned Clinton’s loyalty to her husband, adding an explosive personal charge against his Democratic opponent to a turbulent week when he repeatedly veered off script.
“Hillary Clinton’s only loyalty is to her financial contributors and to herself,” Trump told thousands gathered in Manheim, Pennsylvania. “I don’t think she’s even loyal to Bill if you want to know the truth … Why should she be, right? Why should she be?”
Trump also seized on a leaked recording from a Clinton fundraiser in February, where she expressed empathy for young voters who were siding with her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, saying that for people who don’t see any economic opportunities, the idea that “you could be part of a political revolution is pretty appealing.” The hacked recording was published Tuesday by the Washington Free Beacon
Clinton called them “children of the Great Recession” and added: “And they are living in their parents’ basement. They feel that they got their education and the jobs that are available to them are not at all what they envisioned for themselves.”
Trump sought to turn her words into a new pitch for Sanders supporters, although Sanders himself has endorsed Clinton and denounced Trump. The businessman contended Saturday that the audio shows Clinton “demeaning and mocking Bernie Sanders and all of his supporters” and added: “To sum up, Hillary Clinton thinks Bernie Sanders supporters are hopeless and ignorant basement dwellers.”
Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in Manheim, Pennsylvania, and Catherine Lucey in White Plains, New York contributed to this report.